An accounting from http://americancityandcounty.com documenting Whitaker’s emergency management efforts in June of 2016:
During the first four days after torrential flooding inundated West Virginia on June 23, 2016, just two full-time employees, one part-time employee and a radio technician worked feverishly to coordinate response efforts for Greenbrier County.
“If we got two hours of sleep during the first 96 hours, that’s pushing it,” says Al Whitaker, director of the Greenbrier County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and one of its two full-time employees.
Greenbrier County was the hardest-hit county in West Virginia from the flooding. The June flooding event brought unprecedented flash flooding, which caused the majority of the destruction. After those frantic first four days, Whitaker’s office would operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily until Aug. 1, when it returned to normal hours.
“The water speed as it was flowing through may have reached 40, 50 miles an hour,” Whitaker explains. “We’ve never had anything like that… we had over 10 inches of rain fall in 24 hours.”
Whitaker coordinated with his deputy director and the state to get additional resources and floodwater rescue teams to handle the flooding, which had stranded him in the field for six hours.
Whitaker says they were having a problem trying to find places to evacuate residents “because this [once in a] thousand-year flood was hitting areas [where] we would’ve normally evacuated people,” he explains.
Three locations – Whitaker’s office and two mobile command vehicles- were set up to field the many calls for help. “All city and county governmental agencies played a part in disaster response,” he said.
Greenbrier County has a general emergency operations plan that outlines which agencies are to handle specific areas in an emergency situation, Whitaker says. But during the first 96 hours, Whitaker says he was coordinating with many agencies all at once.
“It really wasn’t ‘we do this then go on to the next,’ it was multitasking,” he recalls.
Whitaker later enlisted three West Virginia counties and a city to specifically help his office coordinate response efforts across Greenbrier County. Using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) information, Whitaker says Greenbrier County used GIS to plot points of distribution, shelter locations and temporary debris sites.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported in late June that the flooding killed at least 17 in Greenbrier County, marking the highest death count of all counties the West Virginia flooding affected.