MINERAL WELLS, W.Va. — The sounds of floodwaters roaring through Lincolnshire and Woodridge Plantation Sunday night turned to sounds of water washing mud from homes, garages and cars Tuesday afternoon as residents began to put their lives back together following the flash flooding.
The vehicles which had poured into the area as friends and families arrived to help with the cleanup Monday turned into an army of cleaning and restoration companies, gawkers who clogged the streets and assistance from the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and First Baptist Church of Williamstown’s Disaster Relief team, to name a few.
The Wood County Sheriff’s Department stepped up its presence in the area as unfamiliar vehicles began to appear and its occupants tried to pick through damaged items in yards.
Cleanup work began in earnest as dry skies helped speed the chore of finding what could be salvaged and what couldn’t. Numerous homes along Lincolnshire Drive, Dickens Drive and Dublin Drive had the majority of the interiors in the front yard.
The Lincolnshire Apartments remained the focus of much of the damage as families of residents continued to empty what was left. Faith Builders of Elizabeth along with volunteers from Latrobe Street Mission began moving items out of what had been left.
Adam Goudy was leading a crew with Guard Restoration. He said “everyone has been pretty understanding because they know they’re not the only ones who have had water in their house. The best word to describe what has happened here is ‘devastation.’ You feel bad for people, you hurt for people because you see they have maybe lost everything, if not everything, they’ve lost a lot, in a matter of minutes.”
Jon Robinson, director of Property Management with RLS Management of Columbus, which owns the 24-unit Lincolnshire Apartments complex, was present as cleanup work began Tuesday morning. He said the facility will be rebuilt.
“We will have it taken down to the studs and start rebuilding,” he said. “There is no structural damage. It is all cosmetic on the inside. Having the bricks at the base of the apartments and about three-to four-feet off the ground protected the structure tremendously. We’re going to be working with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Rural Development to make sure these residents have some place to go.”
He then added, “I’m not from here but this town has shown an outpouring of help I’ve never seen before. I’ve not run across a single person who has come by looking for a handout. But they’ve all come by looking to help. You’ve got quite a community here.”
Jay Ewing, owner of Faith Builders of Elizabeth, had distributed water throughout the neighborhood Monday and was back Tuesday. Robinson had secured his services to remove items from the apartments.
Ewing said his wife, Rebecca, had managed to secure water donations from Sam’s Club and food from Chick-Fil-A for people in the area. “We just wanted to help out with whatever we could,” he said. ” I had a fireman friend in Elizabeth who had asked me if I had heard what was going on. I told him ‘no’ and he proceeded to tell me the story. I’ve got my guys here and the Latrobe Street Mission provided me with three volunteers today, so they’re reaching out to help.”
As the crews continued to bring out ruined furniture and furnishings from the apartments, he surveyed the ever growing pile of rubbish. “You know,” he said, “God was certainly watching over the people here. The fact of what happened here and people were rescued off the roof. God sent the right people here to rescue them and keep them safe.”
Across the street, but in front of the apartments sits Jeff and Tracie Villers home at 634 Lincolnshire. Jeff and his father, Lloyd who lives in Vienna, spent a good portion of the morning and part of the afternoon cleaning out the garage of the home.
“He had it four to five feet in his garage,” Lloyd said. “Everything looks like a total loss. He lost a washer and dryer, a refrigerator,” he said and paused, turning to look at the garage after carrying items to an ever increasing pile of ruined items in the front yard. “If it was in that garage, it was just drowned. I can’t think of anyway else to describe it,” he said as Jeff approached with another load of items.
“At about 11 p.m. Sunday it came through the front door,” Jeff said, describing what happened. “I was watching it come up as I stood on the front porch. I saw it was still coming up and I started shoving towels under the front door to try to plug it. Didn’t work,” he said, “it just popped the towels out of the way and came in. I had about a foot of water in the house,” he added.
“Those four vehicles in the yard,” Lloyd added, “none of those are going to be worth much. Water got in those things and the lights were flashing by themselves, horns honking, all kinds of things happening. Acted like they were possessed. That much water going over cars…. water and car electronics don’t mix.”
Jeff said most of the chain link fence around his yard was damaged. “I had a trailer full of lawn mowers, trimmers and other things just picked up and slammed into my fence. Trailer appears to be fine – that fence isn’t.”
Across the street at 623 Lincolnshire, a home owned by Howard and Tawnda Black is having a dumpster placed in front of it. It was soon filled with debris from the home as Howard, Ryan Snyder and others started pitching the trash into the dumpster.
Meanwhile, Kristi Francisco is removing items from the home and placing them in a nearby vehicle across the street. “There are a lot more people worse off than we are,” Tawnda said. “We’ve ripped out the carpets, removed baseboards, hosed out the mud… they’ll have to cut out the drywall about four feet from the floor to make sure everything is replaced with new.”
She said cars in the area of the home, which sits at the intersection of Lincolnshire and Dickens drives, “were just floating around everywhere. The sewer drains couldn’t handle all the water coming in. We saw something like it in 1997 when it flooded around here. The culvert couldn’t take it then either. It didn’t take it this time either.”
Up the street a bit at 588 Lincolnshire Drive, Terry Duckworth is chatting with his wife Janet. He said he had just been visited by a couple of men “who thought my tools were part of a yard sale they said,” he remarked. “Everything is covered with mud and you think this is a yard sale? C’mon,” he added. “Me and a neighbor ran ’em out. They got in their truck and left.”
Janet said Sunday night they had little time to get things and get out before water got in their house. “We heard the fire truck siren and got up to see what was going on,” she said.
“Water was everywhere. We grabbed our meds, some dog food, some clothes and got out. Terry grabbed our Boxer, Lucy, threw her over his shoulders and off we went in water up to our chest. Water ended up over the dashbaord in our cars. The black interior of my car is mostly mud brown.” Lucy, it should be mentioned, is a 70-pound Boxer. “We weren’t going to leave Lucy.”
Over at 465 Dickens Drive, Joe Whytsell has just arrived to an empty house. His wife, Hailey, is in rural Ritchie County at her parents’ home. She is approximately two weeks from the delivery of their second child. “It’s going to be a boy,” he says with a smile.
Aside from finding most of the nursery area with little damage, he finds little to smile about. Inside, floors are bare as the home’s carpet has been ripped out and lies on the mud covered front yard lawn.
“We’ve lost a lot,” he said. “Just about everything, I think, in most rooms. The nursery wasn’t too badly damaged, so I’m happy about that but we had about a foot of water in the house. We’ve tried to clean up some walls and start seeing what we can salvage. I don’t know how we bring a newborn into this house. He may be spending the first few weeks of his life in Ritchie County instead of here.”
Whytsell said he and his four-year-old daughter Amelia “were playing in the rain Sunday night, kicking and splashing and having a good time together. Then the dogs started barking about 11 p.m.. We got up and found the water on the back porch. We just got up and got out.”
The Whytsells have four bulldogs and a pug in the backyard. There’s a doghouse tilted sideways against the fence. The question is “I don’t have a clue where it came from. It’s not mine,” he said. “I’ve got lawn mowers and other stuff laying against the house. I don’t know where it came from either.”
Whytsell stood in the living room of his house and just looked around. “I’m here by myself with this,” he said. “I’ll have to figure out what’s going to be done. I’ll get some help and we’ll get going. It’s not hopeless. The house is still here and I’ve got a son coming in a couple of weeks. We’ll make it go. We’ll put it back together and make it a home again.”
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