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Pocahontas County fortunate in wake of flooding

THE RISING WATERS of Stony Creek dumped 19 inches of water into the WVDOH office on Rt. 219 north of Marlinton. The water began to enter the building between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Thursday, but dropped fairly quickly, and by 8:30 p.m. employees were able to enter the building to begin the cleanup. Several employees had worked all day cutting trees out of roadways, then worked all night cleaning at the headquarters. Photos courtesy of Evelyn Hollandsworth and Andrea O'Brien
THE RISING WATERS of Stony Creek dumped 19 inches of water into the WVDOH office on Rt. 219 north of Marlinton. The water began to enter the building between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Thursday, but dropped fairly quickly, and by 8:30 p.m. employees were able to enter the building to begin the cleanup. Several employees had worked all day cutting trees  out of roadways, then worked all night cleaning at the headquarters. Photos courtesy of Evelyn Hollandsworth and Andrea O’Brien

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

On June 23, threats of flash flooding loomed over the southern end of Pocahontas County throughout the day, but early reports indicated that no flooding was to be expected on the Greenbrier River. However, as the severity of the storms continued to pummel southern West Virginia with no clear course, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a State of Emergency for 44 of the 55 counties in the state – Pocahontas County included.

The rains continued to pour, and the initial report provided by the National Weather Service was proved wrong as the waters of the Greenbrier River continued to rise. It did not take long for the once gentle waters of Knapps Creek, Marlin Run and Stony Creek to swell, and they spilled across their banks to flood Route 219 and First, Fourth and Fifth Avenues, as well as Eighth and Ninth Streets.

By evening, the rainfall had subsided, and the river crested at 12 feet. The county had received close to six inches of rainfall, and according to Office of Emergency Services Director Mike O’Brien, the county weathered the storm well compared to other areas.

“Things could have been a lot worse,” Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton commented. “We really dodged a bullet this time.”

Throughout the day on Thursday, downed trees, high water, mudslides, rockslides and washed out roads posed numerous difficulties and hindered travel across the county.

“They [the roads] were bad from time to time everywhere,” Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief J.P. Duncan added. “All the little creeks had so much water in them that they covered the roadways – some of them for not very long and some of them for a long time.”

Left: Swago Creek at Buckeye broke over the bridge at Rt. 219, spilling out onto the highway and adjacent fields.
Swago Creek at Buckeye broke over the bridge at Rt. 219, spilling out onto the highway and adjacent fields.

Several roads remain closed as a result of the flooding, and Williams River Road – just downstream of Tea Creek Campground to Dyer – is one of them. According to the Pocahontas County Forest Service, Williams River Road experienced heavy damage last Thursday.

Additionally, the Tea Creek Trail bridge near the confluence of the Williams River is gone.

High water has rendered the stretch of Route 66 near Snowshoe Drive impassible, and numerous businesses and shops within the area have been temporarily closed. At one point, a bridge along Snowshoe Drive collapsed, and efforts are underway to repair it.

According to O’Brien, high water damaged the bridge leading to the Buckskin Scout Reservation, in Dunmore, and left BSR’s campers and staff stranded at the camp. An alternative route was found, and everyone was able to evacuate the camp safely.

For those faced with water on the road, both Duncan and O’Brien warned against driving through it.

“It may look like it’s shallow enough to pass through,” O’Brien cautioned, “but you’d be surprised at how high water can get. You don’t know what might be in the way – or if there’s even a road for you to cross.”

Marlinton VFD stressed adhering to evacuation orders, as well as the importance of posting the provided evacuation notice.

“If you do leave your house, put the poster board up that says ‘This house has been evacuated,’” Marlinton VFD firefighter and Town Council member Adam Irvine added. “That way we’re not wasting time going into a house looking for someone who’s not there when, a block down, there’s still a house full of people.”

Clean-up began Friday, and communities across the county have been hard at work clearing debris and trash left by the flood. A pump was provided to help remove the “small lake” that had formed where Mitchell Chevrolet’s parking lot had been, and members of the Pocahontas County Art Guild worked diligently to restore the Guild room – located on the lower level of the Board of Education building – back to its former glory.

There is still work to be done, but across the county, progress is being made.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” Felton added, “and I cannot commend our volunteers enough. Everyone jumps into action when these things happen – especially our first responders and volunteer firemen and women. How can you thank them enough? I’m reminded that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we know that whatever it is, those guys will do whatever they have to do. It just blows me away.”

Knowing that future storms are possible, O’Brien stressed the importance of paying attention to the weather and urged residents to stay up to date with weather reports by signing up for Pocahontas County’s Nixle Community and Weather Alert System.

“Through Nixle, we are able to send emergency situation alerts and notifications via email and text messaging,” he explained. “It can even call your home phone, and you’ll receive a recorded message detailing what’s going on.”

Pocahontas County residents can sign up for Nixle alerts by visiting the Pocahontas County Emergency Management’s website at www.pocahontasemergency.com. The form is located near the bottom of the page.

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