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Floods create havoc in Wood County

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff Baughan Woodridge Plantation residents look across a washed out site along Slate Creek Monday morning that connected the area with the Lincolnshire development. The washed out area was estimated to be between 20-25 feet deep.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff Baughan
Woodridge Plantation residents look across a washed out site along Slate Creek Monday morning that connected the area with the Lincolnshire development. The washed out area was estimated to be between 20-25 feet deep.

MINERAL WELLS, W.Va. — It started raining in Mineral Wells about 9 p.m. Sunday and most residents around the Lincolnshire area said they didn’t think much about it.

Two hours later, they found themselves up to their waists or higher in flash floodwaters that mowed over everything in its path.

Estimates of three to five inches of rain, depending on where one was along Slate Creek and Little Tygart Creek, filled the stream beds. Along the paths, vehicles were pushed whatever way the current decided to take them, inches thick of asphalt were peeled away, bridges disappeared, homes were flooded and left uninhabitable.

People said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Randy Hinkle of 316 Woodridge Drive lives beside Slate Creek. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. Around 11 p.m. it got really bad,” he said.

“We were up until 4 a.m. helping people get up and get out. I walked out my back door at 11 p.m. and looked out from my deck. The water was about four inches below my fence line near my pool. Literally, five minutes later the creek had come up about four feet. It ended up in the house and the water was about a foot deep. It’s a mess inside.”

The single story Lincolnshire Apartments, which sits near the intersection of Lincolnshire Drive and Dublin Drive, housed senior citizens and the physically disabled. The water, which reached a mininum of four feet in depth in most of the 20-plus apartments, sent a number of residents still there to the roof of the structure to escape the flood.

Misty Williams of Ashland, Ky., who was visiting her parents, Mark and LeeAnn Williams of Mineral Wells, said her 89-year-old grandmother Thelma was living in the apartments – but not Sunday night.

“She was staying with with my parents last night,” Misty said Monday. “Her apartment is a mess and unliveable. We’ll be able to get some things out and salvage what we can.The water moved furniture around. It toppled her refrigerator. She walks with a walker. Had she been here, I don’t know if she could have made it out.”

Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jay Parsons said nine departments, including Wirt and Belpre, responded with at least 10 boats, as well as the West Virginia State Police, Department of Natural Resources, EMS, Wood County sheriff and others were on the scene quickly.

“We had been practicing this scenario since the derecho of a couple of years ago,” he said. “Anyone involved in any kind of emergency service was here and it was a well coordinated effort. So everything went fairly smoothly.”

Parsons said approximated 100 people were involved with the rescues. “We used our fire station as a staging area for a number of vehicles and boats. It was a unified effort once people started arriving to help. We took the people off the roof at Lincolnshire and helped others with boats as the water continued to rise. It was a night of rescues.”

The American Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter at South Parkersburg Baptist Church, which is next to Parkersburg South High School. Jim Blair of the Red Cross said 22 of the rescued people from flooded areas have been housed at Parkersburg’s Red Roof Inn. The Red Cross was also on the scene Monday afternoon distributing cleaning supplies to residents whose homes were flooded.

Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer was in the area with Andy Hartleben and Don Grimm. “The assessor’s office is out here doing initial assessements of the situation which will be used by disaster relief and FEMA,” Shaffer said. “They will be in and determine the next step with the initial reports.”

Many of the homes in the area received more than a foot of water throughout. The Chesterville United Methodist Church is situated on the banks of Little Tygart Creek. The flooding creek took out most of the cinder block foundation of the church’s fellowship hall.

“The basement is flooded and we probably lost the heating and the air conditioning for the church,” said Pastor Lloyd Keith. “The water in the basement was probably two feet from getting into the sanctuary and the floodwater took out most of the foundation of the fellowship hall.

“We’ve got about $20,000 in damages here but we’ve had people who don’t even attend here stop by and offer assistance,” he added. “You help the community and eventually the community will come back and help you when you need it.

“And by the way,” he said, smiling, “we will have church Sunday. Air conditioning or not. Our doors will be open for anyone who would like to be here.”

Wood County Emergency Services Management Director Ed Hupp said more than a half-dozen fire departments rushed to neighborhoods in the Mineral Wells area Sunday night, using boats, trucks and emergency vehicles to evacuate people. A heavy rainstorm which stalled above the area caused flash flooding, sweeping away vehicles, flooding homes and damaging roads.

“They were making rescues from Lincolnshire Apartments,” Hupp said. “We had people trapped up on roofs. They ended up pulling about 30 flood victims out of there, took them to the Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department until we could get the Red Cross there to help.”

A handful of people were taken to area hospitals for various medical reasons, Hupp said.

One Lincolnshire woman was swept away by floodwaters but was found clinging to a tree on the 12th fairway of the Woodridge Plantation golf course.

Jason Schwendeman, who asked that his wife’s name not be published, said of the event, “she was trying to get to me while we were helping people who were evacuating from Lincolnshire Apartments and got in some water. She managed to stop herself on some guylines (wires) that are in front of the apartments. She was holding on but a camper came sweeping by and hit the guylines and knocked her loose. The water was about four feet high at the time. I mean, she’s bobbing in front of me and in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

“I couldn’t do anything but watch her go,” he continued. “It was the most helpless feeling of my life. It was a couple of hours before I knew she was found. Not a good time waiting.”

Neighbor John Mendenhall said another of the Schwendeman’s neighbors, whom both identified as Bob Winebrenner, found her. “We tied some hose around Bob and he eventually waded across the water to some of the mounds of the golf course which were above water,” Mendenhall said. “He eventually found her and took a group of three along with himself to her and they brought her in.”

Schweneman said his wife was taken to Camden Clark Medical Center around 2:30 a.m. and was there until sometime after 6 a.m. He added they returned home around 6:30 a.m. “Aside from a few bruises on her arms and a few other things,” he said, “she was relatively unharmed.”

Anthony Neal, superintendent at Woodridge, said the 18-hole course is reduced to a nine-hole course until further notice. “It will probably be a couple of weeks,” he stated. “I’ve got four greens – the 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th – under water and I’ve still got a couple of vehicles sitting on the 18th fairway. I can’t do much with it until all the water goes away and we see what damage is under the water.”

Course owner Bill Neal said water damaged two bridges crossing Slate Creek and swept away another. He said the two remaining bridges will remain closed until they have been inspected. He expects he will have to replace both.

Crews on Monday were assessing the damage, which Hupp said ranged from flooded basements to damaged vehicles to impassible roads.

“Most of the water is down, but some roads and culverts are blocked,” he said. “There is a concern of more storms coming through the area.”

Hupp said this is one of the worst weather-releated disasters he has seen in the area in recent memory.

“I know they had a flood about 15 years ago in the same area,” Hupp said. “I think this one is worse.”

Wood County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling said Mineral Wells Elementary School did see some flooding, but it was relatively minor.

“We had a little bit of water in the office area, but it was related to water that came through the wall due to bad drainage,” he said. “At this point that’s all we’ve discovered.”

The school is the site for an Energy Express program, which Fling said was still held Monday and would continue through until the beginning of the school year.

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