More Work Still Needed to Rebuild West Virginia Town

By Eddie Trizzino | October 10, 2017

It has been two months since heavy rain swelled the waters of Fish Creek and drenched the town of Hundred, West Virginia, and its residents under several feet of water.

The night it happened is stuck in the minds of first responders, including the town’s mayor and volunteer firefighter Chip Goff.

“It hit in the middle of the night. It couldn’t have picked a worse time to hit, around midnight or so, and it lasted about seven hours. At 7 a.m., the water then receded and the only thing left behind was the debris,” Goff, who became Hundred’s mayor shortly after the flood, said.

“It was a scary night. You could just tell by the dispatcher’s voice that trouble was brewing, and we needed to get there. There were mobile homes about to float away. There were people in wheelchairs who couldn’t get out of their homes. Roads were being washed away. There was so much on some roads, they were unpassable.”

While the flood did not cause any loss of life, more than 30 people in Hundred and Littleton lost their homes and had to move their lives somewhere else while the town could be cleaned, rebuilt and finally reinhabited.

But the road to recovery is ongoing as more work is still needed to bring the town back to what it was.

Goff’s brother, Michael Goff, lived in a trailer only feet from a section of the creek. He came home from work to see the home underwater, his boat floating away and his dog paddling in an attempt to get air.

“It took me three hours to get home from work that night, and when I got to Hundred where the walk bridge is to the football field, the water was over it and the whole town was underwater, so I walked from there to the trailer.” Michael, who has been living at his girlfriend’s home also in Hundred, said.

“I got back to the trailer, and it ripped all the gas lines out, so it was bubbling everywhere. I don’t know what it was. It was crazy.”

Now, the floors of the trailer are caving with debris scattered throughout. The furniture is soaked and the walls are caked with mud inside and out, leaving a line where the water was. Michael was forced to completely throw away most of his furniture as well, and left the food, clothing and other utensils behind.

Homes that have sustained damage similar to Michael’s have to be demolished by the city, which has been issuing flood permits to all of the homes that were affected.

Jan and Ronnie Cottrell have had flood insurance on one of their properties for 34 years, and were glad they never canceled it. Their daughter lives on the property and was home when the flood hit.

“She lost everything. They didn’t cover anything on her, so she lost everything. We had three refrigerators, three stoves, two dishwashers. You know we just lost everything,” Jan, who lives in Rachel, said.

The property has remained uninhabited while under construction, but not everyone affected left their home.

Arthur Tedrow has lived in his home in Littleton for 62 years, and although his house needed work, he was able to live in it throughout. He was staying in Fairmont at the time of the flood, and was notified about the damage around 7 a.m.

“I got a call saying my two sheds were missing, and my truck was underwater and there was water almost up to here, the top of this, and that would be at about 24 inches up the porch inside the house,” Tedrow said, holding his hand about eye-level at his porch’s railing.

“Everything was ruined, the furniture and everything inside, and the underpinning was torn out. The gas line was snapped in two and the water line, and the house was off its foundation.”

After the flood, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded to evaluate the damage and provide some help and needed resources, but it has since left to assist in other disasters. The town also employed the help of Jon Cox from Denver, Colorado, as its operations chief to evaluate damage and keep track of resources.

With so many buildings and homes damaged, Hundred needed a way to keep track of the ones needing repairs. Flood permits have been issued to the homes that were affected so the town knows where to send volunteers and resources.

“We don’t just hand this out to anybody. They have to go through a work order system, and then we go in and check to make sure they were flooded. So if you weren’t flooded, you don’t get anything in here; you have to be a flooded victim,” Cox said.

Although much of the town is still in ruin and uninhabitable, residents have managed to resume their lives in part. School is back in session for the kids, and businesses are reopening all while reconstruction is still ongoing.

Volunteers from around the state gathered on Oct. 1 to help clean a senior center, and more are even coming from out of state to offer assistance.

“We’ve had people come from Virginia, California, just all around. People in Fairmont have brought U-Hauls to bring in material and help out,” Goff said.

The town’s council building has been converted into a Volunteer Resource Center (VRC), where rebuilding efforts can be planned and delegated. A warehouse down the street is also being used to house donated resources such as food and water, kitchen appliances, furniture, furnaces, walling, tools and other equipment.

Although all this supply is needed for the town’s residents, Goff reinforced that monetary donations help the most because the city can purchase necessary supplies itself.

“Up here in the front, like in the beginning, this is all the cleaning supplies and all excellent stuff, but we’re trying to get that phased out because we’re at the end of that piece, and this is more of the long-term recovery right here, getting everybody back to their lives,” Cox said.

Although the damage caused to the town set it back, Goff and the residents want to build it up to be better than before, giving it the slogan “Bring Main Street Back.”

“This flood was like a cancer; it affected everyone. Those who might not have water in their homes, it touched their neighbors, it touched their family, their friends, so everyone came together in this town. I’m so proud of this town. It’s amazing in this little town how everyone has just come together to help one another, simply amazing,” Goff said.

Donations can be made through calling the Hundred-Littleton Disaster Relief Committee.

Information from: Times West Virginian

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