Members of the Greater Greenbrier Long Term Recovery Committee (GGLTRC) presented an early warning system, which could be utilized during major weather events, to the White Sulphur Springs City Council Monday night.
GGLTRC members Wayne Brown and Frank Adkins were joined by WVU plant and soil sciences faculty member Jason Hubbart to ask the council to draft a letter allowing them to begin the necessary studies to implement such a system.
Brown told council that by studying the White Sulphur Springs’ area’s topography, waterways and high water marks, analysts would be able to gauge when, and where, an area may flood. That knowledge, Brown said, could lead to the development of an early warning system that would alert residents that flash flooding, or other weather events, was imminent.
The GGLTRC has already completed a similar study in Rainelle, Brown said, and is moving forward with planning how to slightly redirect the Meadow River in order to prevent the “funnel” that is in place now. White Sulphur Springs and Rainelle were both inundated with water during the June 23 flooding event. Just as in Rainelle, information gleaned from the study could also provide clues as to how to mitigate flooding in the first place, through the redirection of creeks using dams and weirs.
Brown said an early warning system for flooding, wind events, extreme snowfall and forest fires could alert citizens via cell phone and television along with normal weather broadcasts.
Brown told council that the study requires no outlay of funds on the city’s part – the study will cost $7,500 and, if approved, be 100 percent paid for by FEMA.
The council voted to provide the GGLTRC with a letter of request for such a study and confirmed that city workers would be able to provide them with high water marks throughout the city.
In other business,
Councilmember Audrey VanBuren, who heads up the parks division of the city, boldly refuted the rumors circulating that the city has turned down any money to rehabilitate Memorial Park.
“The process with FEMA is ongoing,” VanBuren said, reiterating that getting federal dollars is a lengthy, tedious process. VanBuren said that Memorial Park will still be unusable next summer. The park was severely damaged in the June flooding, and the soil remains contaminated with bacteria and debris. It is unsafe for sports and the walking track is still uprooted in places.
VanBuren confirmed that Starett Farm, home of Hope Village on Big Draft Road, will continue to host soccer and baseball next summer. Lynch Construction has volunteered to continue to level and improve the Little League fields, beginning in March , weather permitting, and the city has received an arts and recreation grant from the county to level the soccer fields.
She said she hopes The Greenbrier will allow the recreational league football teams to utilize the fields at the Sports Performance Center as they did last year. Unfortunately, she said, softball teams will have to play elsewhere this year.
“We need funding of over a half a million dollars” to repair Memorial Park, VanBuren said. “And we don’t tell FEMA what to give us. FEMA tells us how much (money), if any, the park is going to get.
“I care about each sport, each kid and every person in White Sulphur,” she said passionately. “We’re trying to fix it.”
Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Lloyd Haynes and the council approved a resolution to recognize Katherine Johnson, the African American NASA worker who calculated the flight trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space in 1959. Johnson also verified the mathematics behind John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth in 1962 and calculated the flight trajectory for Apollo 11’s flight to the moon in 1969.
Johnson retired from NASA in 1969. She was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama in 2016. Currently, a film about her and her colleagues’ lives, “Hidden Figures,” is in movie theaters.