Maysel resident Tammy Marie Rose is grateful she didn’t lose more than a car and an outbuilding when deadly flooding hit her rural Clay County community last summer.
Her neighbors’ homes didn’t fare very well. Most of their belongings were lost when a creek turned from a trickle into a raging torrent, Rose said.
Things changed quickly as the ‘one-in-a-thousand year flood event’ hit southeastern West Virginia counties by dumping more than 10 inches of rain in some spots on June 23, 2016.
“Normally it’s only about six inches wide and sits a good 15 feet from the main road in front of our house, but it made it halfway up the bank and took the road out. We were trapped in here for like 12 days,” she said.
“Our hollows got hit hard, and it was mainly creeks not the (Elk) River. It has been tough. There are still a few families here who are still living in tents.”
Fast forward a year, and Clay County residents are again expecting rain as they observe the June 23 flood anniversary.
Nothing like last year’s torrential downpour, but the local mood has still been pensive.
Gray clouds are scary now, and even the slightest rumble of thunder can make her panic.
No one has forgotten that 23 people were killed by the flash flooding, including hardest hit Greenbrier County where 15 people died. Six died in Kanawha County, one each in Jackson and Ohio counties.
Or that flood waters also destroyed hundreds of homes, businesses, schools, bridges and highways.
National Weather Service meteorologists continue to monitor conditions today after having placed the region (and several other north central counties in the state) under a flash flood watch.
Forecasters say the greatest threat for severe weather is tonight into Saturday morning.
The strongest storms and heaviest rainfall rates (1-2” per hour) are expected at that time. Small streams and creeks may flood due to the heavy bands of rain moving through the region.
Remnants of Tropical Depression Cindy coupled with a cold front moving through the Mid-Atlantic area are responsible for the wet, potentially windy weather.
Late Thursday afternoon, Rose and her daughters purchased supplies like batteries and bottled water that might be needed in another emergency and “just in case.”
By this morning, a local store had already sold out of bread, milk and water.
“Everyone is preparing just in case,” she said.
Downtown Clay, including the historic courthouse and other buildings on Main Street, had four feet of water in them.
Mud was difficult to clean up because it was contaminated with bacteria and fecal matter that came from households with a septic system.
Recovery efforts are moving ahead, and life is slowly returning to communities as people rebuild their homes.
A total of 4,950 state residents have received $42 million(for individuals and households) after the region received a federal disaster declaration,according to this week’s press release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It included $35.5 million for housing assistance and $6.6 million for other expenses such as furnishings, transportation and medical.
Communities have received more than $106 million to rebuild infrastructure and for emergency work projects.
Federal disaster-declared counties included Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster.
Having time to grieve has helped, and various events are now being held to honor flood victims.
Rose was hoping the weather would be good enough to attend this evening’s Clay County Strong Celebration Recovery at the courthouse square.
“It hasn’t been easy, but this county has come a long way and that is something to be proud of,” she said.
A flood bench was dedicated this afternoon during a ceremony held in hard-hit Clendenin.
Gov. Jim Justice and other lawmakers were in Clendenin Thursday to take part in a ceremonial signing of a bill aimed at increasing flood protection planning. It also created the Joint Legislative Committee on flooding.
Earlier in the day, Justice attended an event in Richwood, Nicholas County, which was also severely damaged by the flood, where “he presented keys to five newly constructed and furnished homes to people who were affected by the disaster,” the Herald-Dispatch reported.
Tomorrow Justice is slated to be part of the 2016 Flood Memorial dedication in White Sulphur Springs and a candlelight service in Rainelle.
A “Clendenin Strong” banner honoring flood survivors and volunteers will be part of the town’s July 4th parade.