Cleanup, damage assessment begins after West Virginia flash floods
This car was washed into Witcher Creek during the flooding on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in Belle, W.Va. (Lori Kersey | West Virginia Watch)
One day after flash flooding washed through eastern Kanawha County and four other West Virginia counties, residents began to clean up Tuesday, as emergency management workers started assessing the damage.
Officials in Kanawha County estimate nearly 100 homes were flooded in communities along state Route 60 and 61 after the National Weather Service says heavy rains dropped one to four inches of rain in Boone, central Kanawha, Roane, Clay and Braxton counties.
Three areas — near Cedar Grove, Chesapeake and Madison — got as much as nine inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
The rain led West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to declare a state of emergency in five West Virginia counties: Kanawha, Braxton, Calhoun, Clay and Roane counties.
On Witcher Creek Road in Belle, Joe Allen and his wife Katy were cleaning up Tuesday morning. During the flash flood, they and their two weimaraner dogs escaped through a window Monday as the water rose around and inside their home.
“We couldn’t get the doors open,” she said. “It was basically like being trapped in a car in water, but we were in our house.”
With their own home unlivable for the time being, they’ll stay nearby at Katy’s mother’s home, which fared better, but still took on water in its basement.
“It’s salvageable,” she said of her home. “But we’ve got to rip all the flooring out, the dry wall is going to have to come out. I lost my couch. The only thing we really didn’t lose was our bed because it’s up higher than the water got…”
They also lost vehicles, and a motorcycle.
The family didn’t have flood insurance — not that she had much faith in it anyway.
“We couldn’t afford it if we did have it, you know what I mean?” she said. “And they wouldn’t cover anything if we did.”
Assessing the damage
Jason Means, public assistance officer for the West Virginia Division of Emergency Management, joined Kanawha County workers went door to door at Witcher Creek, asking affected residents to complete a survey, a part of the preliminary damage assessment.
“By getting that information, we know who the person is reporting the damage, what their location is, the severity of the damage, and then any immediate needs that they may have,” he said. “From there, we can pass that information off to our voluntary groups like … West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, so that if there are immediate needs, those volunteer groups can help those folks out.”
The survey will also help the state determine whether the flash floods caused enough damage to qualify residents for federal assistance. Over time, Means said, emergency management workers will go to all the affected areas assessing the damage.
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WEATHER DAMAGE SURVEY for August 28, 2023 FLOODING
Please follow the directions below to complete a weather damage survey so emergency management officials can better understand how the flooding event impacted your communities. pic.twitter.com/BNuuV1o4wn
— Kanawha County (@kanawhaus) August 29, 2023
“We’re starting off in Kanawha County because that seems [to be] where it’s been most severe,” Means said. He added that another state emergency management team was working on Fields Creek Road, another hard-hit area.
“It was more than anticipated,” Means said of the flash flooding, “Information was a little slow moving in but as always there’s good information on social media, so it quickly alerted us to the severity of the disaster. It surprised me.”
Farther up the road from the Allens, past a sign marking the road closed, a car had been washed into the creek, and a bridge was destroyed.
Jenette White sat on the steps of her home. The wet contents of her living room had been piled into a heap in front of the house. White took off work Tuesday to start cleaning up.
She had been home cutting up an apple for her two-year-old when the water started to rise Monday morning. She called 911, afraid the water would wash away the home with herself, her two teenagers and a toddler. With the road blocked, first responders couldn’t get there until later, she said.
“They weren’t able to make it up here until about 12,” she said. “But the water had already gone off the road. Everything happened within like an hour.”
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