Guard to start flood debris clean up in Fayette County

SMITHERS, W.Va. — Fayette County leaders say they’re still trying to get a handle on damage assessments from last week’s flash flooding.

The West Virginia National Guard will begin picking up debris Thursday in the towns of Smithers and Gauley Bridge. That’s more than a week after Kanawha County began the debris removal process.

Allison Taylor

Fayette County Commissioner Allison Taylor said during Wednesday’s meeting they’ve received criticism for slow response times and that they’re working to clear mud out of homes along Cannelton Hollow and Scrabble Creek. She said receiving additional help from the state will help speed up the process.

“The sooner we get the damage assessments done, which we can’t do without removing the mud in a lot of cases, the sooner the state will have the data it needs to request the federal declaration and reimbursement,” Taylor said.

The commission plans to ask the state for additional help with the debris removal. So far, local volunteer groups have been on the ground including the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.

WVCSB Disaster Relief Coordinator Roy Polmanteer provided an update on Facebook Wednesday morning.

“We started with 10 jobs. We still have 8 left. There’s a lot of work left to be done,” he said.

Teams from all over the state, including the Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association, the
Monongahela Baptist Association and the Tri-County Baptist Association, have helped provide meals. Polmanteer said they even have help from out-of-state.

“Thanks to Alabama for the two teams that they have sent to assist here in Fayette County,” he said.

It’s unknown exactly how many residents were displaced, but Kevin Walker, director of the Fayette County Office of Emergency Management, said they’ve helped four families find housing so far.

“We have not gotten a total number of displaced families. We know of possible 2-3 total loss homes that is completely damaged to where they cannot return to their current living conditions,” Walker said.

Walker said the Guard will make several sweeps over the next week.

“We have tons and tons of debris that is going to be piling up. The plan is to make initial passes through the areas. We’re looking at a 7-10 day operation to get everything picked up,” he said.

A spokesperson with the Guard told MetroNews there are two teams made up of about a dozen members total. It will take about 1-2 days to remove debris in Gauley Bridge and 5-7 days in Smithers.

In Kanawha County, the Guard was busy cleaning up the ball field at Campbells Creek Wednesday afternoon. More than 100 homes were damaged in that area, along with Hughes Creek and Kellys Creek.

Taylor said Fayette County has been doing all they can to address residents’ needs in the immidiate aftermath of the flood.

“We met on an emergency basis 3-5 days last week and would’ve met again, but things had calmed down a little by Friday,” she said.

The commission met in an emergency session Friday and at that meeting, Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier said her town was “transitioning from survival mode.”

Impacted residents who need assistance are encouraged to call the Fayette County Office of Emergency Services non-emergency line at 304-574-3590.

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