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Board Given Update On Flood Damage

August 8, 2017
BY LAUREN MATTHEWS - Editor (lmatthews@wetzelchronicle.com) , Wetzel Chronicle

Eric Yost, who is helping to spearhead the flood response in Hundred, provided a progress update to the Wetzel County Board of Education, at its Monday, Aug. 7 meeting.

Yost said "things are a semi-circus," but are getting under control. He said the Hundred community wanted to thank the board for "working with us, and trying to help us in anyway you can." Yost said the Hundred community felt reassured when Board President Warren Grace paid the area a visit.

Yost reported the prior 10 days "have been extremely overwhelming." He said, directly after the flood, he worked primarily on infrastructure and was pretty much in charge of that area. "I run the Public Service District, the water and sewer for our end of the county." Yost said he had "a lot of help and volunteers, and got the water wells back up."

Article Photos

In this photo from Monday, Aug. 7, Manchin speaks on the phone during a meeting held at Hundred High School with county and state officials and representation. Manchin requested 40 trailers from FEMA, for housing for displaced residents.

Yost said water had to be hauled to the area for several days, but "We got that up and running, with a lot of help from the state and the county."

"We were never out of water, but what became overwhelming was when people got back to homes and businesses, usage tripled. It is hard to clean your facilities and homes with creek water It was essential to keep the town with potable water."

Yost said he arrived at the high school, shortly after the flood, and "a lot of school teachers were there." Also, "People were coming there and looking for relief, and we were providing it."

He said donations were coming into the high school, and the Office of Emergency Services was also coordinating relief efforts for the area.

"It got to be a circus," Yost explained.

So, "We got together, working the office,and we said we needed to have a meeting. We put structure to it, and as a result of the meeting, everybody was going to get a job. We were going to have a meeting every evening."

Yost said his job ended being to "be the commander of this whole situation." He said the response has worked out with everybody working and doing specific jobs.

As for FEMA, Yost said he was hopeful concerning public and small business assistance from FEMA. However, he noted, FEMA is skeptical when it comes to individual assistance, for residents affected by the flood.

"I was pretty tough on them," Yost said of his response to the skepticism.

"We don't have a lot of time to help the people of the community. We've got to do something now. If FEMA gets involved, it could be 30 days. I said, 'What will you do in the interim?'"

"We are kind of on our own," Yost said. "We are coordinating with the county commission and OES. Right now, we are running on donations and volunteers."

Hundred's flood response has become connected with Volunteer West Virginia, which Yost said has "structure."

Yost said the high school has been cleaned out, and the area has taken three directions with its response -- meals, distribution, and volunteers. Volunteers have been delivering hundreds of meals per day throughout the community. This role has since been given to the churches.

The distribution center has been set up at the old Core Oil/Discount center warehouse. The majority of non-perishable items have been taken to the WECARE facility in Burton, as well as the Methodist church. "Those nonperishables will be distributed out of there," Yost said.

The Volunteer Resource Center is located across Hundred High School at the Columbia Gas Center. Yost said the center can transition volunteers.

"We are running everything out of that building, and we set up with Volunteer West Virginia."

Flood victims are urged to call 1-844 WV FLOOD/ 1-800 -451-1954.

"We are overwhelmed by the response to this, and people can get assistance just by calling this number," Yost said. "People get assessed over the phone, and a work order is generated."

Yost said work orders are laid down, and are coupled with the skill-sets of volunteers. Volunteers are then provided materials they may need.

"I'm gathering all information, maps and spreadsheets documenting peoples' needs," Yost added, noting that flood victims are encouraged to document and take photos of everything.

Yost said he had met with United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday, and an hour was spent on the phone with possible resources. It was noted that Manchin has requested 40 trailers for those in the area, displaced by the flood.

Yost expressed appreciation to the board for allowing the use of the high school. He said volunteers are trying to isolate from the school property and will be cleaning up the gymnasium. He said a group of kids from Ohio County visited and helped, as well as a group from WVU. He said the Department of Corrections has also helped with labor.

"We will use them throughout the whole community," Yost said of the volunteer labor. "It's been an effort that has come together."

Yost said the hub of the flood relief has been the high school, and "we got our usefulness out of it. We don't want to impede the school."

Of FEMA, Yost said the process is not one anyone is familiar with. He said he is learning a lot about the process, and the three sides: public assistance, small business assistance, and individual assistance. Yost said he figured the town would qualify for small business assistance, due to the quantity of businesses damaged.

"The one thing that was worrying me was individual assistance. They look at population density."

He noted if FEMA does declare a disaster for the area, "you won't see aid from FEMA go to families. You will see funding for counties and agencies, but individuals could be sitting there a year from now. There is their home, filled with mud and mold, and FEMA hasn't paid them."

Yost said he was tough on FEMA and said he wanted a community meeting. He said he wants the process explained to residents, how to fill out forms and document damage.

He said documents and photos, all add to the whole picture of whether a disaster is declared.

Of the flood, Yost noted "We didn't lose any life. That was a blessing. We can rebuild all this other stuff. My focus is to educate these people, get the benefit of the things coming, and not waste anything Funds have been set up. Carol Roberts is spearheading a fund with Steve Stevens. We have a relief fund we can work out of and combine stuff, so we can keep track of everything."

"I think we can come out ahead if we don't waste it. It might be better than it was. It will never be the same. We might have a better structure though."

Yost said he was amazed at the amount of help coming to the area.

Board President Grace asked Yost what he needs from Wetzel County Schools. Yost asked the board to look into a generator for HHS. He noted that electric was out in the area on Friday, and volunteers were working in the high school, trying to serve food.

"If you get the funds in the future I hope never have to use the high school for this type of thing again, but having a generator, a back-up, would be a blessing."

In another matter, Director of Facilities, Brian Jones, provided the board with an update on flood damages to the school system's facilities.

Jones stressed that the real story "was not in what was lost, but how we pulled together."

"I hope we bounce back stronger," he said.

Of the flood, he said, "You either wanted to cry, or rejoice You'd see the terrible damage, and you would want to cry. But when you saw someone giving someone a hand, it gave you hope."

Jones said the schools suffered at three locations. He said HHS' athletic complex was damaged three weekends in a row. He said the field received probably seven feet of water during the second, July 28-July 29 storm. He said the second storm damaged the field house, and the concession stand. He said everything in the concession stand is a complete loss, along with the Visiting Side's dressing room.

Jones said the first flood took away the band's trailer. "We found it and took it out of the creek. We didn't want to disturb the property owner's field, so we waited until the ground dried out." However, "the second flood took it."

Jones said Panhandle Cleaning should be arriving to clean the dressing room. He said he was not an expert on the matter, but he would guess the concession stand is a total loss, "when you have water above the doors, and it is a single story."

Jones said Long Drain School took "a little bit of damage," and the playground "took a whole lot of damage." Water seeped into LDS in four different locations."

He said there was no damage to any of the rooms, but water did seep in both double doors to the gym floor.

"It ran all underneath that new gym floor."

Jones said water did damage the walking bridges by the playground, and the board is checking with the state to make sure the bridges are safe. Furthermore, new fencing and two backstops were damaged, along with a batting cage.

Gravel was also moved on the playground, so the board is looking into that matter as well.

Jones said Valley High School took approximately one foot to two feet of water in the Vo-Ag shop and shop area. He said Panhandle Cleaning already cleaned up that area.

He said the gravest concern is the water "and what is in the water." He said the shop has a curing room, and a walk-in cooler. He said everything would be professionally cleaned, and the board would hire a company to conduct a bacterial check.

"This has been such a team effort," Jones said. "Amanda (McPherson) has reached out to a sanitarian with the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department, and they will assist us.

Jones said a pat on the back should be given to maintenance personnel who worked all day Saturday to remove the molding around the gym floor at Long Drain School. He mentioned maintenance workers -- Gary Longwell, William Gainer, and Ralph Gainer -- who reported to the schools after the flooding. He said no one asked the three to report to work, but "they responded because that is what they do everyday for the kids."

Jones noted that some people lost some things, and some people lost everything. He remarked that HHS Principal Beth Sigley was affected by the flooding but has reached out to help the community as well. He said Assistant Superintendent Shane Highley had traveled in the middle of the night to assist people, and deliver food.

"The story isn't the flood. The story is the response of the community to the flood. That is truly the story," Jones said.

Board Member Amy Cooley remarked that she was impressed by the youth volunteering. "They are truly to be commended," she said. "One is currently in school, and one just graduated," she said, referencing two youth who carried multiple cases of water inside the school.

"The story really is the community," she said.

Highley remarked that the Hornets football team did lose knee pads and thigh pads, but he felt there was enough around the county to make up for the loss. He said he thought Magnolia had maybe volunteered some equipment as well.

McPherson noted of the community response: "We took a load of food to Hundred, and we saw staff members who were there and helping, sleeping on cots and still in the same clothes from the day before. Everyone coming together is amazing."

"Thank you everyone," Board President Grace noted. "You never think you will be in a situation like that. It brings out the best in people. I think that is typical of our state, just my observation. That is what makes West Virginia people special."

 
 
 

 

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