By KYLE LOVERN
Williamson Daily News
WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – The Tug Valley region escaped with only moderate flooding as heavy rains caused rivers and streams to rise this past weekend.
The Tug Fork River crested in Williamson Sunday night at around 7 p.m. at about 36 feet, according to Doug Goolsby, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Mingo County.
Goolsby was in Kermit on Monday morning where the river crested at about 39 feet at 7:00 a.m.
Despite blaze orange highway signs warning people not to drive through water that covered roadways, Goolsby said some drivers still took a chance with their lives and tried to go through the water at Maher. “The Chattaroy and Lenore Volunteer Fire Departments had to do water rescues,” a disappointed Goolsby said. “Not only do they put their lives in danger, but they put the EMS workers in danger also.”
“Some people just don’t pay attention to the warning signs,” Goolsby said.
While the CVFD was at the water rescue, they had a call of a car fire on Buffalo Mountain. “We had to send Williamson to that, because Chattaroy was busy with the water rescue,” said Goolsby.
There were two bad mud slides on Sunday, according to Goolsby. One was at Mate Creek near Matewan that blocked the road and the other was near the tunnel at Dingess in the northern end of the county. The slide at Dingess knocked out power lines, causing additional hardship for residents in that area.
School was canceled for Mingo, Pike and Martin Counties on Monday. (Mingo had first called for a 2-hour delay, but then officials decided to cancel school.)
Many creeks blocked roadways, as did the Tug River. The river blocked the road in many of the same low-lying areas that it always does when the river floods. This included old U.S. 52 between Fairview Addition and Goodman Hollow, Maher, lower Marrowbone Creek, Crum and a few other locations.
“Back water was also a problem in several areas,” Goolsby said. The intersection of Peter Street and East 4th Avenue (US 52) in East Williamson was blocked late Sunday afternoon. The water had receded by Monday morning.
Back water flooded the renovated Tug Valley High School Athletic Complex, leaving mud and trash strewn on the fields. Goolsby said the new baseball and softball fields were covered with debris.
There were reports of ponding of water and other debris in the roadways throughout the area. Many other roadways had water and debris such as trees and rocks from hillside runoff and that also caused headaches for motorists and law enforcement officers. One area was U.S. 52 just south of Williamson, which has been a troublesome spot for many years when heavy rains fall.
Goolsby said he and his staff monitored the situation all weekend. Homeowners and business owners were on high alert Saturday night into Sunday keeping an eye out on the Tug River and its many tributaries.
No injuries were reported, and there is so far, no major damage to any structures reported. However, Goolsby said there were reports of water in basements.
In Pike County areas such as Buskirk, McCarr, Freeburn and Alfex, residents saw water from the Tug River or creeks that run into the river, blocking the roads and causing concern for those rural areas.
The Mud Fork area of Logan received some high water and the road was blocked at Mount Gay, an area that typically floods every year in that area.
The areas that have been affected most were Mud Fork, Man, Amherstdale-Robinette, Mallory, Gilbert, Gilbert Creek, Red Jacket, R.D. Bailey Lake, Welch, Pineville, Mullens, Oceana, Gary, War, Twin Falls State Park, Davy and Bradshaw. There were reports of minor flood problems in most coalfield counties in southwestern W.Va.
The Levisa Fork in Pikeville, Ky. was also high and threatened some homes and businesses in that area, but no major damages were reported.
Goolsby said spring is normally the time that EMS workers and residents worry about the potential for flooding in the Tug Fork basin. This February flood is a little out of the norm, but flooding can happen at any time in the Mingo and Pike areas, when there is heavy rain in the communities in and around Welch and Iaeger.
Kyle Lovern is the editor for the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277, or on Twitter @KyleLovern.