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Flood survivors help others in WV


When water finally began to recede Monday (June 29) in Clendenin, West

Virginia, Ed Decker pedaled through town on his bicycle to survey the damage.

>He saw roads clogged with debris, homes with flooded basements, driveways

washed away and power outages all over town.

Decker, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, said people in the community are

helping each other clean up, but amid the overwhelming damage, they aren't

always sure where to begin.

"What I wish for in a disaster like this is that somebody could say 'here's

what's needed, here's where to go,'" Decker said, with an edge of exasperation.

Heavy storms over the weekend and on Monday caused flooding in towns

throughout the western counties of West Virginia, killing at least three

people and damaging hundreds of homes.

Twenty-four counties in West Virginia have been declared state disaster areas,

and President Clinton authorized federal emergency funding for six.

One of the hard-hit towns is Ripley, where rain kept the Ripley Church of

Christ submerged until Monday afternoon. Cliffton McLawhorn, minister at the

church, estimated the damage will cost $30,000 to repair.

Not far from the church, several mobile homes floated off their foundations

and pressed into a bridge, where they sat until they could be broken up hauled

away in dump trucks on Tuesday, said Clark Peloubet, a Church World Service

disaster resource correspondent.

Many of the structures damaged in the floods were mobile homes, which are

often inadequately insured and easily destroyed by flooding, Peloubet added.

"Some areas in Sissonville have had two 500-year floods in 15 months,"

Peloubet said. "They were supposed to have bought flood insurance. Now we'll

find out if they have."

The flood also took its toll in the town of Cairo, where raging waters were

strong enough to rip blacktop off the roads, said Fred Ball of the Ritchie

County Emergency Squad.

"We've had people who've had their homes flooded who have never been flooded

before," Ball added.

In Parkersburg, 35 mobile homes were washed away; people inside them were

plucked from the homes by volunteer fire-fighters chasing them in boats and on

jet skis.

Some evacuated families were only able to return to their houses Wednesday

morning, said Pam Holt, State Donations Coordinator at the West Virginia

Office of Emergency Services.

Immediate needs included cleaning supplies like bleach, mops and brooms, as

well as baby formula and diapers.

"People just had to get out within minutes and they didn't take anything with

them," Holt explained.

-- PJ Heller contributed to this report.

Posted July 2, 1998

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