A fight against time and weather on Keystone Drive

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Excavators were taken to their equipment by boat Friday morning along Keystone Drive below Yeager Airport in Charleston where a massive moving of fill dirt that began Thursday continued.

The fill, from Yeager’s runway overrun area, has already destroyed an abandoned house and Keystone Apostolic Church along with filling Two-Mile Creek. Excavators were able to cut a channel in the creek Friday morning in hopes of keeping the water level down. The fill was still moving.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the area through 3 p.m. Friday including the Greenbrier Street area that leads to Yeager Airport.

The fill, part of Yeager’s overrun area extended eight years ago, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It began moving slightly last September and engineers began monitoring. The slip was more significant last weekend following the recent rain and snow. The fill began moving again Thursday and within a few hours the dirt had covered a brick house owned by the airport and Keystone Drive before moving toward the church. Area residents were evacuated and Yeager Airport was paying for hotel accommodations.

“We’re going to have to let it run its course and stabilize and keep people out of harm’s way and once it’s stabilized go in and fix it,” Kanawha County Deputy OES Director C.W. Sigman said from Keystone Drive Thursday evening.

Sigman hoped heavy equipment could be used to clear the debris from Kanawha Two-Mile Creek. The slip had reached the creek by Thursday evening. Sigman had his fingers cross there would be no flooding.

“It would have to get up quite a bit to get to them (residents who live upstream on Keystone Drive) but we don’t want that to happen. Eventually it will get to Greenbrier Street and all up through there. Will it flood Greenbrier Street and inundate the new bridge and all of that? I certainly hope not,” Sigman said.

Volunteers with the Kanawha-Charleston Animal Shelter were working Thursday evening to transfer all animals to Camp Virgil Tate if the flooding began.

Sigman said the hillside could slide more Friday if the area picks up the rain that was in the forecast.

“It’s going to make it pretty tough on the people out here working plus it might make this hillside wash down even more,” Sigman said. “It’s going to get down in the cracks and make this wash out even more.”

Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy watched the slip himself Thursday.

“I’ve personally watched this for now at least 30 minutes and the slippage across the whole face of the fill has not stopped for 30 minutes,” Hardy said. “It’s like a slow motion slippage that keeps on going.”

Operations at Yeager Airport were continuing as scheduled. Yeager spokesman Brian Belcher said Yeager’s main runway was not impacted.

“The runway is not on the fill,” Belcher said.

The engineered fill project is 270-feet tall and contains 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt. Emergency officials said it appeared about one-third of the fill was moving Thursday.


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