By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor
MCDOWELL COUNTY, WV – Despite a gloomy forecast for the rest of the week, McDowell County is slowly recovering from last week’s flooding.
With a week worth of rain forecasted for the area, the McDowell County 911 Center is carefully monitoring rainfall across the County this week.
“We’re still dealing with recovery, but we’re watching the weather closely,” said Director Teresa VanDyke of McDowell County 911. “It’s not looking good.”
On Friday, 11 roads across McDowell County were closed to traffic but as of press time today, Conservation Road in Berwind and Honey Bee Branch Road near Bradshaw are the only two that remain closed.
“They had to do pretty extensive work on the majority of the closed roads,” said VanDyke.
After a long week of work, Division of Highways workers were on site Sunday at both Bee Branch Rd and Garland, repairing roads washed out in Thursday’s flooding.
Concerned citizens and officials alike pulled together to look out for residents in these communities and all across McDowell County. When the rivers rise, we band together. People spring into action, often without a word exchanged.
The County Commission did not hesitate in signaling for help when it began and lending a hand as the waters coursed through the area. The 911 Center transformed into a Emergency Operations Center, with staff keeping constant updates going out into the community while coordinating with our first responders, EMS, Police, Firefighters, as they traveled the County during the storm.
“I’m the Vice President of 911 so I was in the Emergency Operations Center,” said Sheriff Martin West. “I was impressed with everyone trying to do something to better the county and protecting the people.”
West said Deputies spread across McDowell County as the storm raged on, calling in updates to the EOC, directing traffic, and anything else they could to help.
“Boomer (James Muncy) went to Berwind to take people out of their homes to somewhere safe,” said West.
With 4 districts making up the area, the Sheriff’s Office and West Virginia State Police chose to divide and conquer, each covering two until critical need areas could be identified.
City of Welch Mayor Harold McBride stood alongside City employees as both underpasses in Welch were overtaken with flood waters. With access to Welch Community Hospital cut off, City workers stood by prepared to carry the sick and injured across the railroad tracks to a nearby ambulance.
Working alongside crew from Norfolk Southern Railroad, traffic was able to resume moving past the Coney Island underpass.
In the days following the flood, Mayors, Town officials and other concerned individuals continued communicating the needs of their areas.
Volunteers and town officials gathered at Bradshaw Town Hall Sunday to prepare food and accept donations for trapped residents along Bee Branch Road near Bradshaw. Food and water were delivered via ATV while State Department of Highway crews arrived on site with equipment and new drain pipes for the destroyed road.
Delegate Ed Evans communicated the area’s needs on the floor of the House of Delegates, Governor’s Office and many more.
Friends from outside the area also came to lend a hand, such as Lee Dean, Field Representative for the Secretary of State’s Office, bringing a collection of donations to the Bradshaw area, Dana Stoker Cochran, daughter of Mayor of Bramwell, Lou Stoker, as well as ATV enthusiasts that have come to love the area.
Tim Owens, operator of Ridge Runner Tours, and family brought two truck loads of supplies from North Carolina collected by numerous donors.
“We’re up here just about as much as we are home,” said Owens. “This is our second home. We love it here.”
One truck went to Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank while the other went to God’s Grace Ministry. Owens also organized a benefit dinner at Green Meadows Baptist Church in North Carolina to contribute to the Eva’s House pantry, which prepares around 700 lunches for children in the area.
The people of McDowell County also sprang into action, checking on their neighbors and lending a hand to those affected by the flood waters. They also served as eyes to which areas were affected the most, helping officials coordinate efforts where it was crucially needed.
As this week’s weather comes, everyone is encouraged to stay vigilant and aware of rising waters, and prepare in advance. Anyone wishing to report issues is urged to contact the McDowell County 911 Center at (304) 436-4106.