Making Swiss Cheese In Helvetia, W.Va. And 50 Years After The Buffalo Creek Flood, What's Changed?


Last December, tornadoes ripped through our region, killing almost a hundred people and leaving many more without homes. Thousands of people applied for federal assistance — but the government denied most of them. This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from residents in Kentucky who were denied aid.

We’ll also hear a special documentary about the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972, one of the worst catastrophes in U.S. history. Fifty years later, what do people remember? How is that disaster inspiring a new generation to take better care of the land and water? We’ll also learn about West Virginia’s first, and only, curling club, and meet a woman in the small town of Helvetia, West Virginia who’s reviving her family’s tradition of making swiss cheese.

In This Episode:

FEMA Denies Funding To Tornado Survivors

In December 2021, tornadoes tore across our region. Kentucky was especially hit hard. Nearly two months later, not many people are receiving federal aid. Within six weeks of the storm, nearly 12,000 people in Kentucky applied for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but only 13 percent of those people were approved for aid. The Kentucky Center For Investigative Reporting’s Jake Ryan reports.

50 Years Since Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972

Fifty years ago, on February 26, 1972, the Pittson Coal Slurry Dam burst in Logan County, West Virginia. It was one of the worst mine-related accidents in United States history, sending 132 million gallons of coal slurry through the land in Logan County that day, washing up houses and vehicles, and killing 125 people. Four thousand people were left homeless as a result of the flood. Just days before it failed, on February 22, 1972, federal inspectors found the dam “satisfactory.”

West Virginia’s Only Curling Club

Four years ago, the Morgantown Curling Club was formed when a group of friends and curling enthusiasts in West Virginia decided to bring the sport to the state. The Morgantown Curling Club is the first and only curling club in West Virginia. Reporter Chris Shultz reports.

Cheesemaking in Helvetia, West Virginia


Lauren Griffin/ WVPB
Thrayron Morgan begins a batch of cheese by boiling fresh cow milk from her friend’s farm.

Helvetia is a rural town nestled close to the Monongahela National Forest. Residents of Helvetia can trace their heritage back to Switzerland, and the town preserves and shares their culture and traditions through famous festivals like Fasnacht, which happens this time of year. In Helvetia, you can sample Swiss dishes at the Hutte Restaurant and browse local goods at Swiss Roots, the community store. One of these goods is a homemade cheese called Appalachian Alpine. Its makers are a retired couple whose new hobby has revived a lost recipe, as Folkways reporter Lauren Griffin reports.


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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Roxy Todd is our producer. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our interim executive producer is Eric Douglas. Our editor is Kelley Libby. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to