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Five years ago, on June 23, muddy waters ravaged parts of the state in epic flooding that killed 23 people. It was the third deadliest flood in West Virginia.
Since then, a lot of the recovery work has been completed by volunteers.
Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WVVOAD), says there are 87 homes left on the organization’s list to repair.
“Now those 87 houses are probably the hardest homes that we had to recover,” Gannaway said. “It could be a situation where acquisition needed to take place in order to relocate the family, or the family lived in a very tough area that was hard to get equipment to to tear the house down, and then rebuild the house. We’ve had homes where we had to rebuild roads, in order to get equipment or get a mobile home back into that area. We’ve had homes that we had to rebuild a bridge in order to get the whole family recovered.”
Gannaway says there have been times when the organization has tried to acquire homes to help relocate residents, but residents did not want to let go.
“We have folks that just refuse to leave the area that they live in,” Gannaway said. “It was given to them by their grandparents or in their family for a while. It’s tough on us. Those are hard things that we have to deal with when the only thing we can do is move you because there are reasons and guidelines that we can’t rebuild you there.”
WV VOAD organized volunteers to rebuild 2,390 homes in 12 counties with donated dollars. The organization completed 311 homes with federal dollars from the state RISE Program.
“When RISE originally got started, we expected maybe 1,500 in the program. But because the voluntary agencies were able to achieve so much we didn’t need that much to complete (projects) with the RISE program,” Gannaway said. “The 311 that has been completed with the program was 311 that may not be recovered, if we didn’t have the RISE dollars, so we’re very appreciative of that.”
Ganaway also shared a reminder that four counties were declared federal disasters about a month ago. While the flooding didn’t affect as many people, there are still people who are homeless. She says the goal is to finish rebuilding later this year the final 87 homes from 2016.
“To be able to drive through a neighborhood that we were able to rebuild those homes, safe,” Gannaway, “the kids are in the yard playing, they’re cutting their grass, they’re doing the things that they’d done before the flood, and knowing you were a part of them being able to do that. It’s a really good feeling.”