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Recovery from flood slow in many parts of McMechen


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

McMECHEN, W.Va.  — Alice Hill found her 21st Street home in McMechen in the center of a perfect storm of destruction during flash flooding late Friday, as nearby Jim’s Run met with water rushing down from a hillside and higher ground on Marshall Street.

Heavy equipment is manned by National Guard troops Wednesday morning on 21st Street in McMechen, one of the worst-affected areas of the city.
(Photo by Alan Olsen)

Although Hill was not home at the time, neighbors described the scene to her — water rushing in so swiftly it blew the doors off their hinges, as tree branches, later pulled out of the house during cleanup efforts, floated in from all directions before coming to rest in her living room.

On Wednesday, Hill was frustrated with the slow pace of cleanup efforts. She said she received no help until Tuesday, when volunteers from John Marshall High School’s football team, organized by Moundsville resident Tracey Wiley, came to help Hill clear much of the mud from her home.

Still, her home remained caked with muck Wednesday morning as inspectors from Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief effort, assessed the damage.

“Grown men walked in there. They said, ‘Oh, hell no,’ and they walked out,” Hill said. “(Wiley) came and those boys came in and worked — kids on the John Marshall ninth-grade football team — they cleaned that basement up. … She brought up all their cleaning supplies, and they did all this work. We’re overwhelmed, but that’s the job for today.”

Outside Hill’s residence, National Guard troops operated heavy machinery, using backhoes and bulldozers to clear a path through the streets, choked with wood, brick and debris. Local volunteers shuttled bottles of water from various points to assist, while local homeowners shared coffee with the relief workers.

McMechen City Clerk Julie Bratton said Monday the city hoped to be in the damage assessment phase by Wednesday, but Councilman David Goddard said that while damage assessment was taking place, the cleanup phase had only just started.

“We have a long way to go,” Goddard said. “We’re trying to do things as quickly as we can, but there’s only so many volunteers. We’re in cleanup mode, and people are only just now getting mud out, so that’s what they’re coming for is bleach and cleaners, to get the remnants of the mud out. It’s going to be six months or more before things are back to how they should be. It hasn’t been good.”

Goddard said donations have continued to stream in, but as time goes on, new needs are identified. Dozens of bottles of bleach and hundreds of cases of bottled water were stacked at the city pool, but other items were in shorter supply for the physical removal of so much sediment.

“We still need shovels, push brooms, squeegees, some more facemasks, and flashlights and wheelbarrows,” Goddard said.

Happy Tails Pet Salon, located at 700 Marshall St. in McMechen, will be collecting various relief items for residents this week. According to owner Terri Lindsey, the shop is collecting square shovels, dust masks, headlamps and flashlights — preferably with AA or C batteries — floor cleaning supplies, gloves, bacterial wipes and non perishable snack food, such as chips and canned tuna or chicken salad.

Rachel Maurer, project coordinator for the Marshall County Family Resource Network, said the organization is also taking supplies for distribution. Monetary donations will also be accepted.

“We’re acting as a dropoff site for any supplies people would like to donate,” Maurer said. “We’ll work with the emergency management office to determine where those items should go.”

Golf carts have become the go-to means of transporting bundles of supplies to residents, as many roads remain blocked by heavy equipment or fire trucks, while others are still difficult to traverse by car.

Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall, a McMechen resident, said the declaration of a state of emergency by Gov. Jim Justice has helped mobilize some vital supplies and equipment for the city in their time of need.

“When the governor declared a state of emergency, he did that in a timely manner, and promising the National Guard for as long as they need them in McMechen, that’s a tremendous asset,” Ferro said. “There’s so much support from different agencies, individuals and volunteers. This is total devastation.”

Representatives from the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, also appeared Wednesday afternoon, seeking to help take the first steps toward in providing assistance. Dozens of residents gathered at the community center, granting authorization for case workers to begin investigating individual situations.

Staff Writer Drew Parker contributed to this story.

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