The Virginian Review: Efforts Turn Toward Relief, Cleanup
BY DARRELL GLEASON, State Editor
ALLEGHANY CO., VA | Residents in parts of the Alleghany Highlands are still digging out from damage caused by once-in-a-century flooding.
Up to 10 inches of rain fell in the Highlands and parts of West Virginia Thursday. Much of the rain poured down in just a few hours, causing creeks, streams and rivers to overlap their banks.
The western portion of Alleghany County and sections of Covington were heavily damaged by the flooding. The National Weather Service said Greenbrier County, W.Va., was the epicenter of Thursday’s storm.
Residents of the Arlington Court section of Covington and the Callaghan area of Alleghany County were especially hard hit by the flooding.
Tony Taylor, a resident of Royal Avenue in Covington, said he returned from vacation to find evidence of water from 6 to 12 inches deep in his house.
“Everything that was on the first floor was pretty much destroyed,” he said.
Taylor and his family spend the weekend cleaning up. He said that with assistance, everything in his home was gutted within two hours.
“You are overwhelmed at first,” he said. “You come off vacation and you walk into a disaster.”
Taylor said he lost personal items with sentimental value that can’t be replaced, but he tried to put a positive spin on the situation.
“Everything that we threw away, we can buy back. Friends and family are safe,” he said.
Taylor said he was awaiting word from his insurance company before making a decision on his future.
“We’ll either fix and live here or pay off and move on. I am not sure what we are going to do,” he said.
Taylor said he is thankful to his family and friends for assistance he has received.
“We’ve had a lot of support,” he said.
City officials were still assessing storm damage Monday and cleaning up flooded areas.
The city is closely monitoring sinkholes near railroad tracks at the lower end of Arden and York streets in South Covington.
Public works crews continued to remove debris and residential trash from the lower end of Jackson Street, Parrish Court and Arlington Court.
Crews were also clearing culverts and putting manhole covers that were disturbed by water back into place.
“When you have that much water coming down at one time, it doesn’t matter how big the culvert or the line is, something has to give. We have gotten a lot done so far, but we still have a lot left to do,” Covington City Manager Richard Douglas said Monday morning.
As of Monday morning, the city had completed damage assessments on 65 homes and six businesses. No estimate has been placed on total damages.
One of the businesses affected by the storm was Royal Detailing, located on Alleghany Avenue at the foot of Town Hill.
Runoff from a steep hillside caused a wall at back portion of the building to collapse. The property is owned by the Wright family.
“The insurance adjustor came by the other day and said we are not covered since we do not have flood insurance on the property,” said Jacob Wright.
Wright said the building will likely be torn down. He said if that occurs, his family will still try to utilize the property. Royal Detailing may move to another location.
“We will try to find some positive use for the property. Hopefully, something good will come out of this,” Wright said.
Fire Chief Kevin Pettitt said member of the Covington Fire Department had assisted with pumping water from the basements of 50 residences by Monday morning.
Pettitt said final numbers were being compiled Monday, but he estimates that the fire department responded to 15 flood-related calls in the wake of the storm.
In addition, members of the Covington Fire Department, along with firefighters from Alleghany County departments, went to White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., over the weekend to relieve firefighters there.
Ryan Muterspaugh, public safety director for Alleghany County, said officials are still assessing damages as the cleanup effort continues.
“We are still gathering information and submitting our initial reports to the state,” Muterspaugh said. “Damage totals have to meet certain thresholds before we can receive any state or federal assistance.”
Monday, Muterspaugh was working with the Alleghany County-Covington Health Department to establish a vaccine clinic for people involved in the cleanup effort.
“We hope to offer this clinic in the Callaghan area and offer tetanus boosters to people involved in the flood cleanup,” Muterspaugh said.
Callaghan was one of the hardest hit areas in the county. Thursday’s rain dumped an estimated 8 to 10 inches of rain on some areas of the Highlands as a frontal system stalled.
On Monday, Jeffrey Morris of Midland Trail, pointed to a water mark in his house that measured 43 inches.
Morris’ yard was caked with mud, debris and household items that he had to remove from his home following the flooding.
Over the weekend, the American Red Cross, faithbased organizations and churches were in the Callaghan area distributing food, water and cleaning supplies to residents impacted by the flooding.
“Fincastle Baptist Church was at Callaghan Elementary School Sunday and I have never seen anything like it. They had over 100 volunteers distributing supplies and food to people. They even went door to door, taking the food and supplies to people in the community,” Muterspaugh said.
Fincastle Baptist’s pastor, the Rev. Kevin Cummings, coordinated the relief effort and he requested additional assistance from the Glen Allen-based Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. The SBCV is a fellowship of more than 670 Southern Baptist churches.
Ishmael LaBiosa, director of communications for the SBCV, said nearly 200 volunteers from Fincastle Baptist were in Callaghan Sunday with a truck loaded with bottled water, food, diapers, baby wipes and cleaning supplies.
Inflatable rides were set up at the school for children. The SBCV also set up a portable shower unit at the school for residents to use. The shower unit remained at the school Monday.
Fincastle Baptist and the SBCV also distributed supplies to flooding victims in Covington and White Sulphur Springs.
LaBiosa said SBCV of Virginia churches were in Elkview, W.Va., located in Kanawha County, with a feeding unit. He said the SBCV expected to provide 3,000 meals Monday and the number was expected to rise to 7,000 Tuesday.
Rains Thursday brought historic flooding to West Virginia, claiming at least 23 lives and 100 homes. Search and rescue efforts continued Monday. State and federal officials declared disaster areas in several sections of the state.
Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County — at least 15 of them in the town of Rainelle, according to The Associated Press.
Sunday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began accepting applications for aid from residents in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, the three hardest hit areas in southeast West Virginia, AP reported.
In White Sulphur Springs, The Greenbrier resort began providing a limited number of guest rooms and meals to residents displaced by flooding.
White Sulphur Springs was devastated by flood waters from the Greenbrier River and Howard’s Creek.
“Due to all of the damage we received from the storm, we aren’t able to provide The Greenbrier experience that our guests expect,” said Jim Justice, owner and CEO, The Greenbrier.
“But we can certainly provide a comfortable room for those who are hurting and need a place to go.”
The Greenbrier was without hot water, but flood victims who came to stay were provided with a room, as well as food from The Depot, The Greenbrier’s employee cafeteria.
“We just hope that by providing a good meal and a comfortable and safe place to spend the night that we can help ease the pain just a little to those who are suffering so much from this unbelievable disaster,” Justice said.
Editor’s Note: Virginian Review staff members David Crosier, Gavin Dressler, Jerome Johnson and Larry O’Rourke contributed to this story.