Updated date:

West Virginia Flooding 2016: "West Virginia Strong" and the Aftermath

Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. She has a green thumb and always plants a variety of items for harvesting during gardening season.

West Virginia Flooding

West Virginia Flooding, June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016 began like any other day for most of us here in West Virginia. None of us expected the massive flooding that would follow later that day. As the storm raged on, I knew it that this storm was different. Our farm house sits atop a hill, and our property borders the river. My lower field, which I normally plant pumpkins in, looked like it was just part of the now huge raging river in just a few hours. I have a long dirt road driveway, and it was flooding further up than I had ever seen. My heart sank knowing what must be going on in other areas as I watched the water continue to rise.

The flooding caused massive power outages all over West Virginia, and my power would be out for a week. With a low water crossing in our driveway, we were stuck. I was left completely in the dark as to what was happening in my home state of West Virginia during that time. We managed, but the devastation throughout West Virginia is devastating and heartbreaking.

People really came together. A friend of mine went above and beyond trying to make sure we were safe during this time since I was essentially a ghost on social media. The reports keep coming in, and I am not sure when there will be an accurate number of homes and businesses destroyed from this massive West Virginia flooding. The last report was 26 lives lost to this devastating flood in West Virginia. While many will rebuild or move to knew homes, those lives will never be replaced. There are reports of people that are still missing after the flooding.

Flood Relief Efforts

There have been amazing stories of communities coming together to held with flood cleanup, donations and volunteers. Stories of true heroism, like that of Chris Vance who miraculously saved his parents when the flood waters were already so high you could barely see the house. Of course West Virginia, and the flooding are no longer mainstream news. We have been brushed aside for other newsworthy stories.

If the West Virginia flooding has done anything, it has shown how much people are willing to help. Churches, community centers and schools across the state were all receiving overwhelming donations, and volunteers as emergency relief centers. I do see a lot of people saying that FEMA was not much help during the flooding. The problem is they simply were not prepared for a flood of this magnitude. There are 55 counties in West Virginia. Of those 55 counties, 44 were impacted by the flooding.

I am proud of all the wonderful people that came from near and far to help, to donate. Many of my fellow graduates that have since moved to other states even gathered donations and returned to West Virginia to help in any way they could after the flooding. There are some inspirational stories out there. They just are not being reported any longer.

Keep in mind, not just homes were lost. Cars were lost, people lost their jobs. Businesses that have been around for more than 50 years will never reopen. West Virginia will continue to struggle for years to come as a result of this flooding. Our already high unemployment rate will skyrocket as a result. Another devastating blow is many businesses that were not effected are laying off employees, or shutting down and moving to other states. Another tragic blow to our already devastated economy.

People will continue to struggle to rebuild for some time moving forward. Even weeks past the initial flooding some people are still at stage one. Other people have yet to start at all. Between health problems, lack of funding or a slew of other issues standing in their way, the struggle to stay strong and work towards recovery will be a long hard road ahead.

There have been some amazing volunteers, from churches, Ground Hero WV, and many just individuals that saw a need and came to aid. The need for volunteers will no doubt continue for months ahead. The end to flood recovery is nowhere in site. Citizens will be reeling from this catastrophic historic flood for years to come. There have been conflicting theories as to how long flood recovery will take. Some officials claim in 10 weeks the recovery process will be over. Others see the bigger picture and suggest that at minimum it will be 18 months if not longer.

West Virginia Flood

An Ongoing Cleanup Effort

Many people do not realize that cleanup efforts in West Virginia are just starting for some people. Others have not been able to start at all. People in Clay county West Virginia for example are still stranded. Roads have completely washed away, leaving it impossible for some to do much of anything to try and move on and rebuild.

For example, we have yet to start on my Mother's home. Her home is a total loss, yet she is still responsible for clearing everything out before demolition. You see it took till a week and a half ago for FEMA to even meet with Mom and asses the damage I am sure there are others that they did not get to swiftly either, they just were not prepared. Then her insurance had to do a walk through before we could begin as they instructed her not to touch anything. They would take even longer than FEMA to do a walk through. All the while allowing mold to continue to grow and spread.

Now that we have all that out of the way, the dump site for flooding in Elkview is closed. The one in the next town over is scheduling to close as well. So Mom inquired about getting a dumpster from Waste Management (pretty much the only option here in West Virginia). A dumpster for a week will cost my mother who just lost everything $700. Even if you pay that $700 you are limited as to what can be put in that dumpster. Then you are charged $450 to have the dumpster emptied. No electronics of any sort, and no appliances. Well, we live in a modern age, and I understand the issues with electronics I really do. But to tell someone basically half of what they have in their home can't be put in a dumpster that you are charging $700 for seems a bit ridiculous.

This is the going rate for businesses that needed to get a dumpster replaced due to the flooding. Right now, I have a dumpster at the far end of my property on it's side. The flooding washed the dumpster in, and the business sadly had to pay to replace it.

You see, Mom is not the only one just starting cleanup after the flooding here in West Virginia. Yet,all the coordinated efforts seem to be focused more on donations for flood relief. Do not get me wrong I think the love and compassion from all those helping has been amazing. It has been projected that flood cleanup efforts will stretch far beyond 18 weeks. Yet all the dump sites are closing. Though my house did not flood, I still have debris from the flooding in my driveway, along the property. The river is full of debris from the flooding as well.

I have seen posts where places are trying to coordinate with agencies on rebuilding of homes, and spending hours on the phone with no luck. The churches and organizations are amazing, and it really goes to show what a wonderful compassionate place West Virginia is! They have went above and beyond with helping, and feeding volunteers. But, the volunteers are no longer showing up. According to some, this is the agencies' lack of coordination at fault. I have noted that some smaller organizations are really getting things done and their coordination has been stellar during the West Virginia flood cleanup efforts!

As the Elk River extended its borders, homes were completely engulfed.

As the Elk River extended its borders, homes were completely engulfed.

West Virginia Flood Relief: What You Can Do

West Virginia flood cleanup is ongoing. It will continue for some time. I know many people are a bit leery of sending donations, not knowing what organizations are legitimate or not. There are many small businesses that are working on fundraisers to benefit different areas effected by the flooding. There are many items for purchase on the web with the proceeds being donated to flood relief efforts and organizations. Before you buy anything that says 'West Virginia Strong' please look for the items that do at least give a portion of the proceeds to relief efforts. Many, many shirts available on sites like Amazon, have none of the proceeds actually benefiting relief efforts.

Larger organizations like Save The Children are working to help aid West Virginia in the aftermath of the flooding. Please keep in mind that donations like clothing, while very much appreciated, would be best held until people finish rebuilding, or relocating. Although so many people want to donate clothes, the truth is when all you have is a tent, and a plastic tote full of your belongings, much more than a few outfits becomes a burden. In reality facilities are not set up to store large amounts of clothing, and those affected by the flooding likely have no place to store them yet either.

Here is a list of the latest items that are needed during this stage of flood cleanup:

  • 2x4's
  • Subflooring
  • Insulation Board
  • Sheet Rock
  • Electrical (wiring etc)
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Shop Vacs
  • Other Building Materials And Tools

It is a good idea to call ahead to donation and distribution centers, some are at capacity and unable to take donations. Other's are in desperate need of donations. Keep in mind that there are many ways to help. You can simply just take supplies to locations that are cut off, volunteer to help cleanup or help rebuild. Drop of food for those that are still unable to travel.

Or just share the information about the ongoing need on your social media channels. West Virginia and the flooding are no longer on the news. The need is still out there, but we just are not getting any attention on national news anymore. I will update this as I continue to get more information on the ongoing needs.

Transportation is another huge issue with flood relief efforts. Many people lost their vehicles as well as their homes. Making it extremely difficult for them to get supplies as the cleanup continues. Many volunteers have spent small fortunes out of pocket taking supplies to remote areas. The need for donations to help with fuel costs is great.

Here are a few great groups on Facebook that were created in the aftermath of the floods that covered the needs of local churches and organizations in their efforts with flood cleanup. They may no longer be active but they are worth checking out.

Coordinating efforts is becoming extremely hard given the magnitude of the flooding here in West Virginia. There is no one single place to coordinate all the wonderful cleanup efforts or individual needs that exist.

You can also search the following hashtags on social media for information:

  • #WVStrong
  • #ElkRiverStrong
  • #WVProud
  • #WvFlooding

Aftermath: Rebuilding Problems

Officials have just released two major problems for those families attempting to rebuild in Clendenin, West Virginia. Families have diligently worked to clean up after the flooding in order to try to repair their homes. They were thinking things were moving forward, only to be told that now FEMA has extended the 100 year flood zone to include much of the town. This means families that were preparing to remodel after flood cleanup will have to raise their houses a minimum of 38 inches in order to stay. This is a massive blow for families who have already paid for flood zone surveys. Now many are faced with either leaving or finding the $30,000 it would take to raise their homes above the new flood zone.

Another hard blow is that all the gas meters and many lines need replaced, so gas services are not expected to be available till late November. Here in West Virginia it gets cold at night much earlier than November! This blow leaves most occupants without heat, or even a way to prepare food, for months ahead.

Adding to the already desperate situation, all those affected are required to pay for asbestos inspection and removal before they can begin to remodel.

There is still no media attention despite my best efforts to get the information out into the world. I cannot tell you where all the money that is being raised in the name of West Virginia Flood relief is going. Other than the funds being raised by Brad Paisley and Jennifer Garner, your guess is as good as mine as to where all the money is going.

President Obama has still yet to visit my lovely state of West Virginia. I have no idea if it would help, but it would perhaps bring a little hope to all those who are devastated, lost and homeless.

The ongoing long term recovery in West Virginia continues, despite a lack of aid, and volunteer numbers are drastically dropping.

West Virginia Flooding

I wanted to link to this video on Facebook that my friend Sheila posted. She talks about what is needed moving forward for West Virginia flood relief. She makes a very valid point about wondering where President Obama is during all this devastation.

Perhaps hearing some of the information from someone other than me will help to stress just how dire the need continues to be for my fellow West Virginians.

You can also feel free to add me on Facebook, I share relevant up to date information for those who need assistance during these stressful times.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Cynthia Hoover


Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on August 18, 2016:

Thank you Melissa, I'll do everything I can! I know how hard it is to go through something like this. I only wish more help was there for everyone! Many of the volunteers and organizations are pulling out to help Louisiana now. I only hope they help them and that their governor does more for them than West Virginia's Governor Tomblin has done for us. The West Virginia rainy day fund is sitting at almost a billion dollars and he has yet to release a single penny. We have a huge part of our population living in tent cities and you know how bad our winters get. I'm heartbroken and sick thinking about people trying to camp all winter. I will keep working on donations and networking the best I can. If I've learned one thing during this it is that Mountaineers stick together. People have come back to WV to help that had long since moved away. Its a little ray of hope in this tragedy that keeps us all going strong! I only wish I could do more for everyone!

Melissa Cummings on August 18, 2016:

This is amazingly written!! You have such talent for detail and getting people to see the REAL devastation. You state valid points that should be addressed by someone out there. As a flood victim myself, I cannot even begin to put my hunt, pain, anger and devastation into words yet, but you pretty much put it into great words for me. You have done so much, including helping me and my family, God bless you and thank you for all you have done and still continue to do for all of us ( victims) of this most horrible event! Much luv to you and your family!

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 23, 2016:

Thank you Shelia. I have a lot of memories from the other flooding too. I remember carrying my large dog and my cat through water that was above my waist but it was a short walk to safety. Certain memories will always stick with you. There is so much left to do here, yet the media has forgotten all about us.

Shelia Anderson on July 22, 2016:

Great job. Lots of work to be done here. So much damage. Loved reading this. I remember the other flood like it was yesterday.

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 22, 2016:

Thank you Matt for your kind words. I was really amazed at how so many people were helping each other. Especially since there is so much hate in the world these days. It is so heartwarming to see strangers helping each other regardless of their differences. We were lucky and Mom was lucky in that she had flood coverage, so many people did not. So many people are still homeless. The media outlets look for shock and awe more than following up after the major destruction has passed. I did find out today that many more schools will have to be demolished and rebuilt. The flooding impacted so much in West Virginia. Thank you for your kind words Matt, and we will stay strong and rebuild.

Matthew A Easterbrook from Oregon on July 22, 2016:

Cynthia glad to hear that you and your family are safe. I am so sorry to hear about all the flooding and devastation. You are right the media only shows the damage and destruction when it first happened and then they move on to other stories. It is shame that our society and electronic media is like this and does not do follow up stories on places like West Virginia. I wish you all the best and thanks for the information on how the rest of us can send donations etc...stay strong and we will keep positive thought for all of you and do what we can from our side of the world to help out.