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Central WV officials organize flood relief efforts

ELKINS, W.Va. — With a state of emergency in effect for 44 of West Virginia’s 55 counties and the death toll climbing, officials in central West Virginia were reaching out to help the hardest hit areas on Friday.

Belington Mayor Matt Ryan said officials in Barbour County are accepting donations of canned food, toothpaste, deodorant and other non-perishables and toiletries to take to Webster Springs, one of many areas affected Thursday by flooding.

The Belington Volunteer Fire Department, where Ryan is a member, is contributing a truck to haul a box trailer of supplies to Webster County, provided enough donations are received.

“With that area down there, it’s kind of remote. Even prior to roads being washed out, some places are a 30-minute commute just to get that kind of stuff. We’ve got a box trailer we’re going to load up and take down, if we can gather up enough stuff,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s Recker Service on Industrial Park Road or Ryan’s Auto Repair in Belington are the drop-off points for donations. Officials aren’t looking for monetary donations, Ryan said.

“I’ve gotten some help from the County Commissioners, who are trying to get stuff to provide. Right now, anything and everything we can gather up I’m sure would be appreciated down there,” he said.

Ryan said he has heard many stories of the 1985 flood that devastated areas of central West Virginia. And he’s also heard many stories of people from outside the area who offered help.

“Everybody reached out to help everyone in this town. It’s just kind of a respect thing to try to pay back what people have done for our town in previous years,” he said.

Ryan said he was moved to action by the story of a toddler in Jackson County who was swept away by the flood water.

“I’ve got three kids at home. That really hit me,” he said.

So far, at least 14 people are dead as a result of the flooding, according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Barbour officials plan to contact the Webster Springs Fire Department to see what supplies are needed and how best to get them to where they need to go, Ryan said.

“We don’t know what kind of condition the roads are in. So we’re trying to get in touch with them to make arrangements,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he wants to avoid getting in the way of local recovery efforts.

“We’re just trying to touch the edge of the disaster and, hopefully, it will filter on down through where it’s needed. I don’t want to get in the middle of their operations and cause traffic problems,” he said.

In Hardy County, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture is teaming up with the city of Moorefield to help those impacted by the recent floods. Residents of Moorefield are collecting drinking water, cleaning supplies, pet food, hygiene products and generators for those in need. The WVDA will transport those items to hard-hit areas.

“Thousands of West Virginians have been impacted by flooding and mudslides. Many have lost everything they own,” Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick said. “The WVDA is working with the citizens of Moorefield to provide emergency supplies and assistance to those in need. We hope you will work within your community to help out as well.”

Donations are being collected through noon on Saturday at Moorefield town park. The items will then be taken to several drop-off points, including the Ansted Baptist Church in Fayette County.

Randolph County Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Jim Ancell said Randolph County has a Homeland Security trailer with 50 cots. Officials plan to make them available to flood-affected areas.

“I know that some counties are devastated. We do anticipate taking our shelter cots to wherever they are needed,” said Ancell, who noted Randolph County was fortunate.

“We ended up with minor flooding on a lot of roads we normally have flooding on,” he said.

There was only one incident where individuals required rescue.

“We had a report of one truck with two people in it that washed off of Valley Elk Drive. They both made it to shore OK, but they went into a residence and the elderly gentleman started having chest pains. We did have to get the National Guard and the West Virginia State Police to affect a rescue. I think they got to them with a humvee,” Ancell said.

“We were very fortunate. The main storm cells that went through crossed the ridge that separates Randolph and Webster counties. If it had been a mile north, we would have some of the same level of flooding,” he added.

In addition to Webster Springs, Richwood in Nicholas County was among the hardest-hit areas as the Cherry River overflowed its banks. In Kanawha County, the town of Clendenin was devastated by high water from the Elk River, which rose to a record 33 feet.

Elk River Resort sits at the confluence of the headwaters of the Elk River. The headwaters of the Elk River are fed by seven tributaries from surrounding Snowshoe and Gauley mountains. The Big Springs, Slaty Fork, Old Field Fork, Laurel Fork, Props Run, Big Run tributaries and the Dry Branch flow underground for five miles and come above ground at the resort. It follows a generally westward course through Randolph, Webster, Braxton, Clay and Kanawha counties, past the towns of Webster Springs, Sutton, Gassaway, Clay, Clendenin and Elkview before joining the Kanawha River at Charleston.

Tracy McClain, the marketing manager at Elk River Resort, reported the Elk River Lodge and Island cabins located at Elk Springs Resort did not receive major damage, but overall, the resort was hit hard, especially the trout raceway.

“We were busy all last night moving trout in the hatcheries,” McClain explained. “The hatcheries seem to be OK, but there’s no way to evaluate the extent of the damage right now.”

“The lodge was not flooded due to our dike system we built along the riverside of the resort lodge,” McClain added. “The water missed the lodge by a foot.”

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