West Virginia Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato, U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, Logan County Emergency Services Deputy Director Sonya Porter and Logan County Commissioner Danny Ellis walk through flooded Coal Branch in Logan as Rahall Rep. Robbie Queen and County Commission President Danny Godby and Commissioner Willie Akers talk with flood victims during a tour of the area on Sunday. The Coal Branch community suffered severe flash flooding on Thursday when nearly 4 inches of rain fell in an hour. (Photo | Michael Browning)
MUD FORK — U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall was amazed at the destruction caused by last week’s suprise flash flooding in Logan County.
Rahall, who has always come to offer his help during times of flooding, toured the flooded communities of Mud Fork, Verdunville, Mount Gay and Coal Branch on Sunday, along with National Guard Major General James A. Hoyer, Department of Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato, Department of Highways Emergency Official Chuck Runyon, Logan County Emergency Services Director Roger Bryant and Deputy Director Sonya Porter, Logan County Commission President Danny Godby, County Commissioners Willie Akers and Danny Godby and Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti.
Rahall said he saw a lot of destruction and many heart-broken people.
“I’d say 70 percent of the victims were affected for the first time and a lot of them saw their homes wiped out,” Rahall said. “I’m sure they lost some valuable, lifelong possessions in this flash flooding. This is as bad a flood as I’ve seen.”
Commission President Godby, who has been out working to help flood victims since it hit on Thursday morning, said he’s thankful the flash flood happened in the morning hours, rather than at night.
“It was a blessing it came in the morning. You think what would have happened if it had hit at night when everybody was asleep,” Godby said. “We would have been pulling bodies out of homes.”
Rahall talked with flood victims throughout the communities and offered hope and help.
“I appreciate (Congressman Rahall) stopping by and taking the time to listen to us,” Coal Branch flood victim James Muncy said. “It means a lot to us poor people.”
Muncy gave Rahall and the other officials a tour of his flood-washed property. One of his storage buildings is barely standing after water damaged it. Muncy took numerous photos of the damage and said he wants help, but there are others who need it more than him.
“A lot of people are worse off than I am,” Muncy said.
His granddaughter, Erica Muncy, was at school when the flooding began and had to find an alternate route to her house.
“When I got here, they wouldn’t let anyone in the hollow,” Erica Muncy said. “It was scary. I’ve been here at the house since Thursday.”
Brenda Brewer, another Coal Branch flood victim, said she is glad she isn’t living in her old home, which was built on the ground.
“Thank God we tore down our old house and built the new one up,” Brewer said. The new house was built six blocks higher and saved it from severe flooding.
Dave Townsend sat outside his home beside a huge pile of flood debris he’d cleaned out of his house.
“The water came up so quickly,” he said. “I got worried and got up and started moving stuff.”
“It came without warning,” Rahall said.
Leo Belcher drove down to the Verdunville Church of God, where he was gathering cleaning supplies for elderly Mud Fork and Verdunville residents. Belcher was assisted at the church by Jessica Adkins, a member of the church who volunteered to help with the donations.
“We’re just trying to help elderly people,” Belcher said.
Adkins said she had been busy throughout the day carrying water and bleach to cars and trucks.
The Verdunville Church of God had served more than 7,000 hot meals as of Monday evening, according to Porter, who was giving regular updates on the flood relief efforts.
Bryant praised the efforts of Verdunville Church of God Pastor Michael Hartwell, who was also working tirelessly to coordinate volunteers and donations.
“This guy is our hero,” Bryant said.
Hartwell said he prayed for God to stop the flood waters and, minutes later, they started receding.
“I said ‘God, you parted the Red Sea and calmed the raging sea, and you can stop the water,’” Hartwell said, as he began to get emotional. “And, the water got up to the church’s front door and stopped. It was a miracle.”
Rahall met with the volunteers and flood victims at the church. He said their faith in God is what saved the day.
“The reason why we fortunately didn’t have a loss of life is the strong faith of these people,” Rahall said. “Their hearts are broken, yes, but their souls are strong. They have every bit of faith in God and that is going to get them through this. That’s what I think is so characteristic of our people not only in times of trouble, but every day.”
Rahall said that everyone is working together to make life better for the flood victims.
“So many businesses who have gotten so much from the community over the years are giving back by giving food to the churches, the Red Cross, to state road employees, the Corps of Engineers and the National Guardsmen,” Rahall said. “We’re thankful for all the National Guard does. They are always there. And we are thankful for the governor’s request of $10 million to help in this disaster. It’s a great team effort. Everybody is working together and that’s what it’s going to take.”
Rahall said he will join with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller to sign a letter requesting Homeland Security, FEMA and the Small Business Association to get a federal disaster declaration.
“We need it to come through quickly,” Rahall said.
To contact Staff Writer Michael Browning, call 304-752-6950, extension 309, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.