RAINELLE, W.Va. — The damage, destruction, and loss of life in the Greenbrier County town of Rainelle will likely long be talked about in the years after the flooding of June 23 and 24 becomes a footnote in history.
“Everything’s gone,” Mayor Andi Pendleton said Saturday morning in a special edition of MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “Everything’s gone. All the homes are gone. We’ve got people in shelters at Ansted.”
Rainelle native and business owner Brandon Black is praying that the 1500-person town of Rainelle doesn’t become a similar footnote in West Virginia’s history.
“The people that are left here in Rainelle don’t have much, and what they did have everybody just lost,” Black, while surveying the damage at Patriot Tattoo Studio and Design in downtown Rainelle, said. “I was talking to a few other property owners, and we are all terrified that this is going to make Rainelle a ghost town.”
As of 4 pm Saturday afternoon, 26 people across the state were confirmed dead. 15 of the confirmed dead were in Greenbrier County. At least three of those 15 are believed to be Rainelle citizens.
“This is where I grew up,” Black said. “This is why I chose to come back here and do business to try and bring good things back to the community. Now, everybody that’s put forth effort in this town the past several years, it’s kind of like it was all for nothing.”
Pendleton said the eastern side of town seemed to suffer more water damage than anywhere else.
“It’s a disaster,” Pendleton said. “The water got in, broke the windows. The furniture store is all water up in it.”
At least 200 people needed rescuing, and were relocated to Ansted Baptist Church in the Fayette County town of Ansted.
“This is the worst flood we’ve ever had,” Pendleton said. “My heart is breaking.”
There is no official word on how many buildings and homes in Rainelle were either destroyed or are uninhabitable, but the Governor’s office estimates that hundreds of buildings across the state were damaged or destroyed by the historic floods.
“We really need someone to come in and find permanent housing for the people who have lost everything,” Black said.
Whether or not Black’s fear of Rainelle becoming a ghost town comes to fruition is anybody’s guess, but Black said the town will need an inexplicable amount of assistance.
“God himself,” he said. “He’s the only one who can help fix this.”