CLENDENIN, W.Va. — A Kanawha County woman is grateful her role as the executive director of the Kanawha County Greater Long-Term Recovery Committee will require her to be at several events Friday to mark the first anniversary of the 2016 Flood.
Otherwise, Susan Jack tells MetroNews she’d be sitting at home thinking too much about the devastation.
“There’s ups and downs. It’s been that way since the flood,” she said. “When I’m busy, I don’t think of what I lost in those storage lockers. When I’m busy working, I don’t think about some of the things I saw.”
A year ago, Jack was living with her daughter in an apartment near Herbert Hoover High School. Most of their belongings were in storage units at Blue Creek. They were preparing to move to Dayton, Ohio when Jack’s job ended on June 30, 2016.
The storms hit on June 23.
“Another week or two and we wouldn’t even have been here,” she said.
The previous owner of the Pleasant Street property retired to Oak Island, North Carolina.
“I found this place, met the lady that owned this place. She said, ‘I’m not up for this,'” Jack recounted. She bought the house with help from her parents. “This is sort of my recovery plan.”
Clendenin residents with their own recovery plans in the aftermath of the historic storms that claimed the lives of 23 West Virginians will be out Friday night at 7 p.m. for a remembrance event from the Clendenin Ministerial Association outside Smith’s Foodfair.
During Friday’s West Virginia Power game at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park, Highmark West Virginia is sponsoring a night honoring the Elk River community.
Rosie Young-Workman, a Clendenin native, is scheduled to sing the National Anthem after Clendenin and Elkview youth sports participants march in a pre-game parade.
Throughout the season, Highmark has been donating $5 to the Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee for every strike out thrown by a Power pitcher.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, the flood anniversary is scheduled to be marked with an event at Herbert Hoover High School’s football field. Organizers have said that gathering is not meant to be a celebration, since so many people are still not back in their homes.
“We’re doing a lot of reconstruction on homes here, but we’ve got a lot of others that need to come down,” Jack explained. “We’ve gone from, kind of, reconstructing homes that were damaged to, now, total rebuilds. There’s more and more of those coming.”
Clendenin Mayor-Elect Shana Clendenin, who was elected earlier this month and takes office on July, said it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the town is in overall flood recovery.
“In terms of business, we could be (at) 40 percent. In terms of residents, it differs. We’re nowhere near 100 percent, I promise you that, and it’s going to be years before we are,” Clendenin said.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) toured Clendenin earlier this week with Jack, the SBA’s 2017 Phoenix Award winner for “Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer,” and others ahead of Friday’s flood anniversary.
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done and it’s not like work isn’t done every day,” Capito told MetroNews. “But there’s some demolition that needs to be done. There’s a new restaurant in town which is really good, but there are still great needs.”
She said she likes the new economic development vision Clendenin has for itself.
“We’ve got our marching orders with SBA (Small Business Administration) and other federal government resources to try to help them, not just get back on their feet, but to grow for the next several decades,” Capito said.
One year after the flood, Mayor-Elect Clendenin has this message: “We’re still here. We are still in need of volunteers and of help and don’t forget about us.”
“We’ve really been challenged here,” Jack said. “You run out of gas sometimes and you just have to regroup and take a deep breath and keep going. You’ve got to stay positive.”