RAINELLE, W.Va. — Two years after the 2016 Flood, tears still come quickly for Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton when she talks about what her Greenbrier County town has endured because of devastating high water.
“It’s been a difficult road,” Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton admitted in a Friday interview with MetroNews.
“My key is to keep working. Work hard, build on the dreams and hopes I have (for Rainelle) and hope that it comes true.”
On June 23, 2016, training storms dumped between eight and ten inches of rain on parts of central and southeastern West Virginia.
In all, 23 people were killed in the flash flooding that followed the rain. More than half of those deaths were in Greenbrier County with five of the victims coming from Rainelle.
In the town, flooding affected 90 percent of homes and all businesses.
Since then, “We’ve done very well — with the money, the resources we had, volunteers and FEMA. Everybody’s chipped in, but we still have such, such a long way to go,” Pendleton said.
The biggest needs in Rainelle, two years after the storms, were housing via the delayed RISE West Virginia program and replacement work for the Rainelle stormwater system with help from an $11 million FEMA mitigation grant, according to Pendleton.
As of Friday, Appalachia Service Project, which has been overseeing home reconstruction through Rebuilding Rainelle and is still working in Greenbrier County, had completed 65 homes as part of the effort, organization officials confirmed.
It’s just one of many organizations that have been set up in Rainelle since late June 2016.
Pendleton said Rainelle residents owe a debt.
“We, the town people, must go forward and help those others that are in need when there’s other disasters someplace, because they came to our doorstep from all over the country,” she said.
Five flood-damaged buildings on Rainelle’s Main Street were slated for demolition in July, the same month for the start of a sidewalk rehabilitation project.
Pendleton was also overseeing a walking trail project designed to connect Rainelle’s Downtown directly to the Meadow River Trail.
The future was her priority.
“I can’t look back. I get too emotional if I do. Sometimes, I just feel real heavy, like the load is heavy,” Pendleton said. “I’ve got a lot of dreams and a lot of hope and I’ve only got a year left.”
Now 72, she said she likely won’t be seeking the mayoral position again.
For now, “I’ve got to look after my neighbors. I’ve got to make sure my people’s okay. They don’t always agree with me, but I have a sympathetic heart and I just keep going,” Pendleton said.