Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Jessica Lilly, Connie Bailey Kitts Published

Remembering Floods And Recovering From Disaster, Inside Appalachia

A photo of a flooded brick building surrounded by trees.
Floods have been part of Appalachia for as long there has been an Appalachia, which makes flood recovery also part of Appalachia. Markella Gianato’s family were trapped in the brick building (right), surrounded by at least 7 feet of water.
Courtesy Markella Gianato

Flooding is a recurring problem across Appalachia. This week, we’re taking stock, and looking back on floods that have devastated parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.

We explore some of the reasons for floods, as well as the aftermath and the slow recovery that often follows disaster.

It’s not all gloom. Even in our hardest moments, there’s always hope. 

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

Revisiting The WV Flood Of 2016

In 2016, West Virginia saw 10 inches of rain in 12 hours. The resulting flooding led to 23 deaths. The governor mobilized hundreds of members of the West Virginia National Guard.

Jessica Lilly reported from the town of Richwood and told a story that went back decades.

Reclaiming Rand

Rand, West Virginia, is a town of about 900 people just outside Charleston. Flooding has been a regular problem for decades, partly because of longstanding issues with faulty storm sewers.

Tiara Brown reported this story.

Healing Comes From Alan “Cathead” Johnston’s Ballad 

Alan “Cathead” Johnston with his daughters Jessi and Stacey at the Wheeling Jamboree.

Courtesy Photo

Singer and songwriter Alan “Cathead” Johnston wrote the song, “Muddy Waters” about two horrific back-to-back 100-year floods that tore through McDowell County in 2001 and 2002.  

It’s been a couple of decades, but Folkways Reporter Connie Kitts found that people are still drawing strength and comfort from this ballad.

The Flood In Hindman, KY

It’s impossible to talk about flooding without acknowledging last year’s historic flooding in eastern Kentucky. The floods killed at least 38 people and damaged some of the region’s cultural centers, including Appalshop in Whitesburg and the Hindman Settlement School.

WFPL’s Stephanie Wolf visited Hindman just after the floods and took stock of what was lost. 

Coming Back From Disaster Through Faith And Music

Dean (Dino) McBee cleans old recording equipment damaged in the 2022 floods in Kentucky.

Credit: Nicole Musgrave/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When you spend time in Appalachia and live through a few floods, you tend to notice a recurring theme: neighbors helping neighbors. In Millstone, Kentucky gospel musicians were cut off from participating in part of their culture after they lost instruments. Many found help reconnecting with their music.

Folkways Reporter Nicole Musgrave brought us this report.

A Poem For A Flooded Town

West Virginia poet Doug Van Gundy at the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky for the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop in 2022 the night Troublesome Creek flooded.

He shared this poem with us, which was partly inspired by what he saw.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Jackson Browne, The Dirty River Boys, Alan “Cathead” Johnston, Dino McBee and Yonder Mountain String Band.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Zander Aloi is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.