ROWLESBURG, W.Va. — The silver light of dawn was just peeking through the windows when the sheriff’s wife roused him. It was Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1985.
Like many others whose houses weren’t washed away, Preston County Sheriff Jim Liller had slept through the worst flood in the history of West Virginia. There had been nothing on the news. But this morning, Liller’s wife got word there was damage.
So he got in his car and drove to the power plant on state W.Va. 26, where he could look down on the Cheat River and Albright. The scene was surreal. A giant band of brown water was coursing over the place where the town used to be. He spotted a home that belonged to a friend; it was sliding to the left. House by house, Albright was coming apart.
His deputies gathered there on the hillside.
“What do we do?” they asked.
Liller thought, “We’re going to be picking up bodies…