Randy Yohe Published

Six Years After Deadly, Destructive W.Va. Flood, Recovery Continues


On June 23, 2016, torrential rainfall devastated 12 West Virginia counties. The flash flooding took 23 lives and caused overwhelming destruction. Six years later, recovery efforts continue, with proactive flood mitigation leading the way.

More than 10,000 flood victims registered with FEMA after the 2016 disaster. Several thousand families were not able to rebuild their homes on the limited federal dollars they received.

Jenny Gannaway is executive director of West Virginia’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). This association of independent helping agencies works with volunteers, grants and donations.

She explained the challenge for so many families.

“When you only get $33,000 from FEMA, and you need $60,000 to replace your home,” Gannaway said. “We go in and use their $33,000 and use other donated dollars to make sure their home was rebuilt. And we use volunteers which saves a lot of money.”

The RISE West Virginia program, dedicated to 2016 flood recovery, is under VOAD’s administrative umbrella.

Gannaway said VOAD has finished restoring nearly 2400 flood ravaged homes, referring 400 more to the RISE program. She said the last 20 RISE homes on the list should be ready by this fall.

The group worked to not just restore, but relocate numerous homes – even sections of neighborhoods – out of flood zones. She said when families couldn’t or wouldn’t move away from that creek or stream, VOAD rebuilt with flood mitigation top of mind.

“We’d build their home at least two foot above what the actual flood stage was,” Gannaway said. “So if the flood stage was six blocks high, we went two feet higher to give them extra protection.”

More than 120 bridges were destroyed in the 2016 flood. Gannaway says VOAD has fully restored 57 of those bridges. She says all bridge rebuilds are done with stream and flood mitigation construction practices.

“We get culverts out of streams and get in-bank abutments out of streams,” Gannaway said. “We build the bridges from the top of the bank to the top of the other bank so that it’s opening up the streams and it’s not causing a dam to block the stream and flood homes.”

Gannaway said VOAD was down to 50 or so bridges to repair or replace, but she says with all the recent flooding, there are about 100 bridges now on VOAD’s list.