The new slide that now has the Madison Creek access road closed has residents upset about the evacuation and has raised a number of questions about what will happen next.
Three of the residents were taken out by boat last night. The residents were told the evacuation was not mandatory but those with medical needs were told it would be advisable to evacuate since it may be an extended period of time for anyone to be able to reach them. They were told medications would be brought in to them.
West Virginia Department of Transportation Communications Specialist Carrie Bly said the DOH is looking into several options.
“At this time, our priorities are to evacuate families that wish to leave and create a temporary access point. We are looking into the possibility of a buy-out; at building a causeway across the Guyandotte; we are working on the slide to create a path for at least ATVs to get through; we are also working to clear other paths for ATVs to gain access to Madison Creek. The DOH and contractor are working together to supply hotel rooms, rental vehicles and food to these families,” said Bly.
The DOH had a meeting at a church in the Madison Creek Community Wednesday afternoon.
Resident Linda Wilson was born and raised at Madison Creek and has lived in her present home there for 28 years. She attended the meeting and said it was basically about getting people out to work and getting them transportation or rental cars.
“One of the first things said was that sometimes God works in mysterious ways. This was a man-made disaster. God didn’t have anything to do with this. There are between 40-60 houses over here. This house is a house of memories. My grandchildren have been crying their eyes out because they can’t get over here. Three of my children have passed away here. From the beginning, they told us we wouldn’t have to move. Now, they have made this disaster and we are going to have to leave and it’s going to have to be pretty quick. Some of the people over here are sick and they are scared. They don’t want to leave, but they are scared. They told us they will try to bring supplies over once a day. They said families with children will need to evacuate so the children can go to school. The residents were assured there would be 24-hour security to protect their property if they left. This is tearing families apart. It’s heartbreaking and it’s a mess. I am not leaving my house.”
Wilson said many of the residents of the community have enjoyed free natural gas for the past 58 years. She is also concerned about not being able to replace that benefit.
She says they were talking about having people stay at hotels for two weeks and believes they expect to have a way in and out of Madison Creek by the end of that time.
The situation has brought to light just how complicated family life has become. Couples don’t work in the same town, with some working great distances apart—they need two rental cars, not one. A grandmother who lives in Madison Creek babysits for her grandchild that the parent brings to her every day. If the grandmother stays in her home, the parent will not see her child until the access road is open. Families go off in separate directions every day and some, or all of them, are trapped on the wrong side of the slide without their belongings. A worker assigned a vehicle can’t get that vehicle out to drive to work. Some people have missed work to the point of losing their jobs, or they have exhausted all of their leave available — at the meeting, it was mentioned that efforts to restore lost wages would be made.
W.Va. Delegate Rupert “Rupie” Phillips was at a meeting at Charleston with the DOH and they will be taking care of whatever they need in an expedicious manner. Phillips says he has been working with Ted Tomblin and W.Va. Senator Art Kirkendoll, all of whom have been working with the governor and other officials to try and find solutions to help the people of Madison Creek.
“I just left the site where they are bringing them across on a boat. My heart goes out to these people. I talked to some of the people on a bus and some of the kids who were upset because their Christmas presents were still at their house. I am telling the residents to save receipts of anything they have to go out and buy because of this disaster and the DOH will take care of it. The DOH is working on a way to buy out the families and say that each will be treated fairly,” said Phillips.
This story will be updated as information is made available.