CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A local flood recovery group addressed Charleston citizens Tuesday night to discuss recovery efforts following last June’s flood.
The Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee held a meeting at Mountain Mission Church to discuss the progress made so far, as well as other support that is still needed.
Committee volunteer chairman John Ballengee said while it seems like very little is happening, this is by no means the case.
“We’ve made a significant amount of progress over the past six months,” Ballengee said.
According to state Adjutant General James Hoyer who spoke at the meeting, between 32 and 36 percent of the people affected by the floods were 62 years old or older. In addition, 35 percent of impacted people were “economically disadvantaged.”
Additionally, Ballengee said 2,200 homes in Kanawha County have registered through FEMA with some flood damage. This is the second-highest amount registered in the state.
Ballengee said FEMA has been a great partner in helping those in need.
“We’ve had nothing but very, very good support from the FEMA representatives that have been here in Kanawha County and throughout the state of West Virginia,” Ballengee said.
James Young, deputy developer with the Kanawha County Commission, said FEMA has been helpful in demolishing unsafe homes. Young said the agency and the National Guard have teamed up in removing threatening homes for free, having already approved the removal of 108 homes.
Young also said people with damaged homes will be given the option to rebuild homes that meet current regulations, adding a significant number of damaged homes were built prior to the existence of regulations regarding flood elevations.
“It’s going to make a big difference in the community and hopefully those people can reinvest and build back,” Young said.
Ballengee said the biggest issue right now is not funds or supplies, but rather volunteers.
“We need a lot of volunteers that can help push the process along a little quicker,” Ballengee said. “If we had 100 homes that needed to be painted and we had 2 painters, that would take a long time. But if we had 300 people who were willing to paint, we could paint those homes in a weekend.”
Young said this was the first large meeting to be held in Charleston, adding other meetings were held close to areas significantly damaged by the flood, such as Elkview or Clendenin.
He said he hopes holding the meeting in a larger populated area will result in increased volunteering.
“You have the largest churches and the largest businesses,” Young said. “These are the people we need to call to action to get them involved and get them engaged on a regular basis so that they can continually go up there to provide support in several different ways.”
The Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee is made up of 34 member organizations.