Flood Stories 2016
Kimberly Green: White Sulphur Springs
By Mark Robinson
Kimberly Green was home on Crescent Avenue in White Sulphur Springs, Thursday afternoon, June 23, when the water came up. She saw the water coming toward the house.
“It was a little after three o’clock. I saw the water over by that white house. Then it flowed through here. Within minutes of seeing that water, it was coming from everywhere. It got up in the street. I saw my neighbor’s dad walking in the street. He yelled at me to come on. I walked out, but the water was up to my thighs, and I could tell I wouldn’t be able to stand up in it. It was moving fast, especially in the street. So I called for him to come over, and he walked across. The water kept rising.
“It got up about five feet inside my house. We were upstairs, and about four o’clock, or four-thirty, it was raining hard and we thought the water would come up some more. We were worried the back porch roof would wash away and we would have no way to get on the roof if the water came up in the second floor. So we went ahead and climbed on the porch roof, and from there climbed up on the house roof.
“We stayed there a couple of hours. We could see houses breaking up and floating away. We saw the house on fire, it lodged against that tree over there, you can see the burn marks on the tree. The man with me was diabetic, he was getting weaker. He needed insulin. We called 911 several times, but after several calls they asked us not to call any more. Eventually we saw that the water wasn’t going to come up any more, so we climbed down and got back on the second floor, and we stayed there.
“They came and got us about 11 p.m. State troopers came when the water had gone down some, they tied a rope around a tree over there, took us to a big vehicle driven by the National Guard.”
In Alderson, people are the stars
Many differences were made by people who put service to others above self during the flooding that devastated many parts of Greenbrier County.
In Alderson, Bobby and Judy Hoover, who keep the keys to the Alderson Community Center which serves as the town’s emergency shelter, were called about 11 p.m. on Thursday night, June 23, and asked to open the shelter. They responded immediately. They only expected to be gone for 30 minutes and just went. A couple of hours later when they thought again about their home, they couldn’t get there because of the rising water. They spent the night at the shelter like many others whom they were serving.
The flood waters filled their basement but, fortunately, did not get in their first floor living quarters. The Hoovers continued to serve the community. Volunteers pumped out their basement the next day but the Hoovers were not there to empty or clean it. They were still at the shelter. The smell got worse as the flood mud further decayed. Finally, on Tuesday, June 28, Judy was able to get free to supervise a crew of volunteers to empty and clean the basement somewhat. Judy said, “The smell was getting so bad we had to spray air freshener in our bedroom on the second floor before we could sleep. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the help to clean out the basement.”
The Hoovers still have a lot of work to do to get it back to relative normal but their huge hearts helped a lot of people onto that path.
Chief Jeremy Bennett had arranged to get a Humvee for the Police Department and he picked it up on Thursday, June 23. The first rescue came at 12:30 a.m. on Friday, June 24. A call came in that a double amputee was stuck in his home on Virginia Street and waters were entering his home. The fire department reported that they had no way to reach the man and requested that Bennett try using the Humvee.
The flood waters had already engulfed several homes and vehicles. Bennett eased the Humvee into the water with volunteer Tim Luce, watching the passenger side front tire for water depth. Bennett took the Humvee down Virginia Street to the front door of the victim’s home. When he stopped, water began to enter the bottom of the door and fill up around the brake pedal. He exited the vehicle and entered the home. He found the man sitting in a wheelchair in his kitchen. The man was visibly upset and was asking for his dog. Bennett found a small white dog and handed it out the front door to Luce who waded through water to give the dog to Alderson Volunteer Fire Department members.
Bennett realized that he would have to place the man on the hood of the Humvee in order to get him out. He pushed the man out his door and pulled him from his wheelchair. Luce jumped onto the Humvee hood and, with assistance from a firefighter, they were able to place the man onto the hood. By this time water was waist deep and the town was disappearing under a watery blanket. The man was reunited with his dog and both were driven to the Alderson Community Center emergency shelter.
Mayor Travis Copenhaver said, “I cannot begin to express my appreciation for all the wonderful, selfless people in this town and around our valley who have contributed to the recovery efforts. We have a lot of heroes and these stories are about only a few of them.”
Rebecca Haynes said it all in a Facebook post last week following the announcement of the cancellation of the July 4th Celebration, “Hang in there family and friends of Alderson, It’s your compassion and love for one another that brightens those skies, not the fireworks! Love y’all and keeping you in prayer.”
Wilbert and LeeAnn Finn: Rainelle
By Mark Robinson
Wilbert Finn lives in Rainelle with his wife LeeAnn and three children. The youngest is 19 months old. Wilbert was coming home from work Thursday afternoon, when he ran into high water. He parked his car at the firehouse and walked on to 8th Street in Rainelle. His wife and six children were in the house, his own family plus three cousins, all children.
LeeAnn described what had happened earlier in afternoon. “My first idea that things were getting bad was when I went in the laundry room and saw water coming in the bottom of the door. A little later I saw it coming in another room, and it was only a few minutes before it was in the whole house. That’s when I said it’s time to get everybody upstairs.”
When Wilbert made it to the house, the water was at waist level, when he was walking in the street. In the house it was close to knee level. By the time they got out of the house late that night, the water was up to his wife’s neck. “There must have been five feet of water in the house when we were taken out,” said LeeAnn. “The rescue team was from Virginia. They came up to the porch that night, in their boat. They had lights, and took us from the upstairs, through the water, one by one to the boat. It had a strong motor, and pulled through the water. They took us to the firehouse. Later we went to Pizza Hut, from there they took us by bus to Ansted to a shelter. We got there before eight o’clock in the morning.”
LeeAnn continued, “When we were crossing the bridge, getting evacuated, there was a big propane tank burning by the bridge. We had to turn around and go back to the firehouse and wait until it burned itself out.”
Wilbert added, “The current was too strong to carry somebody out. You’d get washed away. My cousin was trying to get here to his kids. He got swept into the baseball field, and ended up crawling up on top of the dugout, and they came and got him out of there about one in the morning. They got him in a boat. The neighbor lady over there didn’t have an upstairs. She stood on top of her bed until the morning, when they got her.”
Wilbert and LeeAnn hope to move into a trailer soon, on higher ground.
Shannon Beatty and Chastity Patrick: Caldwell
By Sarah Mansheim
Shannon Beatty and her husband, David, and her sister Chastity Williams and her husband Kevin, have been working day and night, helping their father clean up the flood damage at his home on 4th Street in Caldwell.
The evening of the flood, Shannon and David travelled to Caldwell help her father, Jerry Patrick, clear out his house and evacuate his home. What they didn’t realize was, he and two neighbors were trapped in the basement.
“I couldn’t find Dad. I was frantic,” Shannon said. She found her father’s dogs, Shadow and Marlow, and with David’s help, lifted them over the chain link fence that encircled her father’s yard.
“I was watching as Dad’s neighbor’s trailer was submerged in water. I didn’t realize Dad and his neighbors were trapped in the basement. They were trying to get the washer and dryer up the steps. David went out back and he heard them banging on the door. The washer and dryer were blocking the steps, and the water was holding the door shut.”
David managed to pry open the basement door. By then, the water was so high in the yard she said, they had to lift Jerry over the fence because the front gate wouldn’t open.
“Dad said he needed his medication. So we went back into the house. I could hear the water rushing under the house and see it swirling out the window. There was water shooting out of the toilet and out of the bathtub and sink. I was screaming at David, ‘We need to get out of here!’”
They left without the medicine. Later, they found out a neighbor had grabbed it.
“Then, we just stood around the Presbyterian church, in shock, watching the water rise,” she said.
• • •
The aftermath has been rough. “I can’t sleep. Dad is distraught,” she said. “He’s on a fixed income. He’s worried about the $70 of groceries he bought Thursday morning.”
“My whole family lives down there (in Caldwell),” she said.
When they first returned Friday morning, she said she didn’t know where to begin cleaning. Then, David said, “Let’s try to dig the driveway out.” Soon, other friends and family members showed up and began to clean up the mud.
“It kept us going,” said Shannon. One area woman, Kimberly Johnson, travelled through the neighborhood with a wagon full of food and snacks, handing them out to the people shoveling out.
“She was like an angel of mercy to me,” said Shannon.
Shannon’s sister, Chastity Williams, and her husband, Kevin, worked hard to clean and repair Patrick’s house. Chastity deflects the attention, and instead looks to all the volunteers who helped to clean up in Caldwell. “ I was truly grateful for complete strangers and people coming together to help each other. Our community – everyone is family to me – and I’m glad we all pulled together,” she said.
“We spent three whole days shoveling mud and finding more damage,” said Shannon of her father’s house. The basement was full of mud and flood debris, including tires, log cabin beams, tents and furniture that had washed into the room during the deluge.
“I never imagined that I’d see the floor again,” said Shannon.
Today, Jerry is back at home, but Shannon is worried about the long-term effects of the flood on Caldwell. Still, she is proud of her community.
“The community will never be the same,” she said, for better or for worse.