Kanawha County recovering from flooding

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 8:55 PM EST
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Rivers overflowed their banks and flooded communities in Kanawha County on Monday night into Tuesday morning.

Officials said one of the hardest-hit areas was Riverbend outside of St. Albans where water damaged homes, coated roads with mud and littered trash around the neighborhood from the raging Coal River.

“It came up so fast that I couldn’t even put plugs on the drains for our downstairs area,” Michael Downs said. His lower level was filled with water, despite having a 4-foot flood wall around his house. “It’s a nice place to live if it wasn’t for the river.”

Downs said he hasn’t seen flooding this bad in more than a decade and he does not want to rebuild again. He started packing up boxes and had movers come to his house on Tuesday afternoon to put furniture into storage until they are able to find a new place to live.

Downs and many of his neighbors are participating in a voluntarily FEMA program to buy homes in floodplains. Construction workers have already cleared many lots of previously flooded homes, and his will be next.

Down the street, Terry White was surveying the damage done to his home along the river. He’s set to be part of the next round of the FEMA program, but asked officials surveying the damage if he could get added to the program sooner.

“I’m hoping they will buy it because there is a lot of damage,” White said. “It’s going to cost me a fortune to repair.”

He left on Monday night when the water started to get high around the house. He returned to find water marks in his basement 60 inches off the ground and all his belongings ruined. Playing cards were scattered across the muddy floor, family photos were soaked and Christmas decorations all floated into one corner.

“Water was coming up through the ground where all the sewer drains was coming up through the concrete,” White said. “It was 6-8 inches deep before I left late yesterday afternoon. Honestly, I didn’t think it would get up that high.”

Kanawha County Emergency Management was out beginning to assess the damage on Tuesday. Flood Manager Bruce White said some areas were completely cut off by washed-out roads while others on higher ground were not damaged at all.

“It shows you the force water has and how destructive it can be,” White said. “That’s what we are trying to make people understand and part of the reason for the buyouts is to get people out of an area that is so prone to this.”

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