Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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The Flood Next Time
Real Audio
A WV Public Radio Special

We had to do it
McDowell filmmakers look at 01 flooding will include latest devastation

The Floods of 2001

Flood Pictures

Valley Fills, Spills, Chills and Thrills

McDowel County Mining Map Released

Cycle of Destruction

Whats behind the floods? Are logging, mining leaving valleys vulnerable to rushing water?

Appalachia Floods NPR All Things Considered - Real Audio

THE MOURNING AFTER: McDowell cleans up, looks for missing

An all too familiar sight

Floods leave 4 dead, 12 missing

4 dead, 12 missing in flood

Floods claim sixth in region

Six are still missing:" Four counties declared disasters after flooding

Eight Still Missing After W.Va. Flood

Disaster declared in 4 W.Va. counties

Some point to mining, timber operations

Water came from above and below: Rockefeller suspects logging made floods worse in Coalwood

Death toll rises to 9 in W.Va.; 4 missing

3 more die in W.Va. flooding


West Virginia Floods

May 7,2002

Dear Friends and colleagues,

You've probably heard some of this on the news, but I wanted to call to your attention the continuing problems in some of the most depressed areas in Appalachia in eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia.

On Thursday and again today, I spoke with Franki Patton Rutherford in Caretta, McDowell County West Virginia. The flooding there since Thursday is worse than it was in July of last year and is the second devastating flood they have had in 10 months.

As of today, 500 people were stranded and trapped in one community where debris on the roads couldn't even be navigated by SUV's and 4 wheel drives. The National Guard is in the area, but so far no one has been able to get through, and the folks have been without food and water since Thursday.

In the community of Johnnycake, a low train trestle served as a trap for mud and muck and debris which had built up a wall 12 feet high. A few people were using a "crawlspace" in the midst of the debris to get in and out.

Route 52 between Keystone and Welch and over the mountains to Coalwood and Caretta was undercut by the water and pieces of the road are falling in. Members of one family survived the flood only to be killed when mud and muck slid down onto the road and onto their truck near Keystone. Trucks and supplies were taking Hwy 16 or going in slowly and one at a time. Downtown Welch seems pretty much completely destroyed by the water which rose very quickly and moved through the mountains rapidly.

Outside of Coalwood (where author and scientist, Homer Hickam, who wrote Rocket Boys, which later became the movie October Sky, was raised), houses that were 20 and 30 yards UP the mountain were damaged or destroyed. Unrestricted logging takes place all through these mountains and pine trees that are cut down in swaths to get to the hardwoods, were washed down the mountains, along with big rocks, puncturing holes in houses throughout the area.

Eleven of the 15 schools in the area are unusable and children will not be able to return to classes this year.

The old school and community center where Big Creek People in Action operates its programs fortunately received minimal damage even though the Dry Fork creek is only a mile away. They have stayed open and have been sheltering and feeding people since Thursday night. The Red Cross is there and FEMA is starting to analyze the needs and talk to families and people with damage or ruined houses.

McDowell County is the poorest county in West Virginia and continues to suffer crisis after crisis. Damaging snows of a couple of winters ago were followed by the huge and devastating floods last summer. Although several agencies have met in the community to see about flood problems, nothing has been done. A few months ago, the school system was put into state receivership and people there have been fighting the school board intensely to make drastic changes the high school. In the last two weeks, the principal of the high school was arrested on 20 counts of sexual assault on minors. This latest tragedy is just about to test the limits of the community's ability to bounce back. A large percentage of the rural county had already left after last year's flooding and there are concerns that this will drive more folks away.

Big Creek People in Action has long been an ACF grantee and has done much work in organizing the community around a variety of issues and needs. They really need our help at this time and whatever you can send will be appreciated and used wisely. If you can send a gift of money to the Flood Relief of Big Creek People in Action that would be the best-- supplies and clothes often present more problems in terms of logistics and distribution, also because transportation in and out of the mountains sounds problematic at best right now.

Franki herself has been a community leader and outspoken activist in Appalachia for many years and served on the ACF Board. Her daughter Jessica, a student at Big Creek High School, has been one of the young people who have organized in response to the problems in the school system.

If you want more information, please feel free to call me at 865.523.5783. If you want to talk to Franki or folks at Big Creek, their number is 304.875.3418. Their address is HC32, Box 541, Caretta, WV 24821.

Gaye Evans
Appalachian Community Fund


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