CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Everyone was standing, attentive, to what was being said as the West Virginia National Guard held its morning briefing Sunday at its headquarters in Charleston on day three of the response to the devastating floods in West Virginia.
State Adjutant General Jim Hoyer heard from various Guard members who had the very latest on the needs of citizens and their communities.
Hoyer pushed his members to have a very a positive attitude when they speak to flood victims who are in a very dark time.
“People just need to know that somebody’s there, they got their back, they’re coming and support is on the way,” he told MetroNews after the briefing. “In an event like this, it may take a couple of days to get to people.”
The Guard had new information Sunday on some areas of Clay and Roane counties that had yet to be reached. Crews were dispatched to check out the reports. The Guard learned from its 2012 response to the Derecho that social media is a key component in finding out what’s happening in some of the more rural areas, Hoyer said.
“Because in some cases in West Virginia, it might be a day or so before we can get to somebody but they still have that social media contact and if they have an absolute emergency we can get to them,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer also stressed making sure cell towers remained in operation in the impacted areas.
An Interagency Task Force Operation works with the National Guard in disasters like the one currently underway, Hoyer said.
“The focus from the governor is that there be very little daylight between the Guard, first responders and other agencies in state government,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer compares the damage from this flash flood to that sustained in McDowell and surrounding counties in 2001. He told those at the briefing this is going to be “a long event.”
“One thing we focused on this morning that’s going to be a priority for us over the next couple days is water, power, sewer. How long is it going to be out? How long is it going to be impacted? How many people are going to be impacted? How many people are impacted? So we can start to plan for those short to mid-term fixes to make sure people have stability and then how do we focus on those long-term fixes,” Hoyer said.
It’s possible some water and sewer systems may be out for a number of months. Hoyer said FEMA will play a key role there.
Hoyer also expects at some point FEMA setting up temporary housing in the flood impacted areas.
Hoyer said the bottom line is the Guard has to do what’s best by the people of West Virginia.
“When you see a young family that’s lost everything,” he paused, reflecting on what he’s already seen. “The impact is significant so we’ve got to do our best to take care of those folks.”