HARMAN, W.Va. — What started out as a day to of joy and celebration in Harman turned to sheer terror and deja vu on Thursday.
The town’s 4th of July celebrations were put on pause for a couple of hours in the afternoon when the already flood-ravaged community was put under a Flash Flood Warning by the National Weather Service in Charleston due to the imminent break of a dam near Whitmer.
Communities in the eastern mountain counties, that received up to seven inches of rain last weekend, had received bands of strong storms around midday as the Flash Flood Warning got put out for parts of Randolph County around 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Randolph County Delegate Cody Thompson, who was in Harman for the celebration, shared with MetroNews his emotions when he first got the alert.
“I was immediately terrified just from hearing that. My initial concern was for the safety of the people,” he said.
“A lot of emotions for everybody from joy and happiness to terror and panic to the people questioning why did this happen. A lot of different emotions for the day.”
Turns out that the reported dam near its breaking point was not a dam, according to Thompson. He said the body of water reportedly causing the problem was a two-acre pond above Harman on the Allegheny Mountain.
He added that the culvert of the pond had been damaged in the severe weather.
Thompson said that there was miscommunication between the person calling the alert to the National Weather Service in Charleston. According to him, Randolph County Office of Emergency Management did not call for the evacuation of Whitmer, liked originally called into the National Weather Service.
After review of the pond from county OEM officials, it was determined the area did not face imminent danger and that is when the Flash Flood Warning was lifted around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The severe storms that rolled through Harman pushed back their 4th of July parade that was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The parade went on as planned later in the day.
Along with the parade, a bake sale took place, inflatable rides were set up for children, a veterans memorial ceremony occurred, a chicken burn went on, and there were a handful of booths and vendors set up in the community center.
Thompson said it was an easy decision for community leaders on whether to hold the Independence Day celebration despite the flood devastation from last weekend that will takes years to clean up from.
“Everyone got together and said that this is something that we had planned come hell or high water that we are going to do. They are doing it and I think it is a great thing to keep people’s spirits up,” Thompson said.
Even with the celebrations the cleanup and recovery continued. Thompson said volunteers were seen at the senior center in Harman collecting and loading supplies that were coming in.
Thompson said the town and area welcome any and all help with large supplies including rakes, shovels, dehumidifiers, and garbage bags.
“Even though we were having a celebration today, you still look down the street and there were people down there working on bridges, clean up and recovery,” Thompson said. “The recovery effort did not stop.
“The people are just very resilient. They are not the kind to sit. They are the ones that get ready to take action immediately to stuff.”