PANTHER, W.Va. – Cleanup continues in western McDowell County after high water caused damage to a number of roads and bridges and a few homes last week.
Panther Volunteer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy Conyers has been running non-stop since the rain came down. He was on his own last Wednesday night trying to check on those trapped in their homes due to high water. Three of his own firemen were unable to get out of their houses.
“The major problem we have right now is the bridges,” said Conyers speaking between emergency calls at the fire house in Panther. “We have a lot of bridges destroyed and that’s the only way they can get to their house.”
Conyers says only four or five houses actually were flooded with water inside the living quarters. One of those homes was washed off the foundation and eventually caught fire and burned.
But beyond total destruction is mild aggravation to hardship for those who are now forced to walk in and out of the hollow to get anywhere.
“We have to walk in and out of the hollow. There’s eight families who live up in there,” said Rhonda Johnson. “It washed out our road and it’s all private property. It’s got nothing to do with the state road.”
Vanessa Cline had gone to bed since she had to get up the next morning for work, but her husband noticed the rising water.
“It got up to my porch and lacked about six or seven inches getting through the door,” she said. “That was a blessing, but it got up under the floor of the house about two to three feet from front to back.”
The water in the crawlspaces has created a big problem for the areas residents. The fire department is instructing them to spray diluted bleach under their homes to prevent mold development.
Right now, the people are coping as best they can and waiting on word on whether they can get the money to begin work on the bridges.
“A rough estimate is 15-hundred people,” said Conyers. “They can get out of their house but they can’t get out to the road because their cars are still in the yard and it’s full of mud.”
The damage spreads over several areas including Panther, Bull Fork, Butterfork, Mud Fork, Greenbrier Hollow, and Trap Fork. Conyers said state emergency officials are looking at ways to get low interest loans for victims to help rebuild bridges and private roads in the area.