On Thursday, June 23, 2016 reports of flash flooding caused alarm in West Virginia. As it would turn out, these flash floods would cause a federal disaster declaration in 8 counties and set records for most deadly and disastrous floods in many communities.
The people living in the affected areas have lost nearly everything. Houses were swept off their foundations, vehicles were destroyed, and possessions were lost. 23 people have lost their lives during this flooding, 3 of which are still missing and presumed dead.
On Friday morning, Aurora Lights stepped into action to offer relief efforts, much like we did during the 2014 Water Crisis. We partnered up with Friends of Water and folks we know in communities throughout Tyler, Wetzel, Doddridge, and Monongalia counties. By Friday evening our friends in these counties had setup a total of 12 donation drop-off locations. By the end of the day on Saturday we had helped to coordinate additional donation drop-off locations in Wirt and Marion counties, bringing our total to 18 drop-off locations. Donations were pouring into these locations so quickly our volunteers had a hard time keeping up with the pickups!
On Sunday morning, crews from Tyler and Monongalia counties transported supplies to the Elkview/Clendenin area. These volunteers dropped off supplies in the communities then headed out on the secondary roads to assess the needs of people in the rural areas. Jeremiah Todd, a volunteer from Tyler, reported that people in the hollers hadn’t seen anyone since the first responders did their initial sweep. They didn’t know there were shelters setup in town and they were not aware of another flash flood watch in the area. Because their vehicles had been swept away in the flood waters, these folks were stranded. Travis Carrow, a volunteer from Monongalia, reported that people were mostly excited about receiving a cold bottle of water and cleaning supplies. Travis said, “A quote from on of the people we met yesterday after we asked her if she needed anything. She said this as she was helping her neighbors who had lost everything…”I didn’t lose anything in my house. It didn’t even get wet. But I did lose my husband.” I am typing this with tears in my eyes. This has been the most heartbreaking and humbling experience of my life.”
On Monday, our volunteers arrived back to their respective home bases and were immediately on the go, picking up donations and acquiring more volunteers for relief efforts. In Tyler, a group of more than 10 volunteers worked together to gather donations from 10 drop-off locations and transport supplies to be loaded onto trailers. Within a few hours of picking up massive stock piles of donations, our crew had to go back to pickup another load. They couldn’t keep up with the outpouring of generosity. In Doddridge, volunteers acquired supplies from 5 drop-off locations and loaded supplies onto a tractor trailer supplied by the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department.
In August we continued relief efforts by replacing the kitchen floor and lower kitchen cabinets of an elderly woman who was about to go through hip replacement surgery. The flood water had covered her kitchen floor, warping the wood and making it unsafe for her to walk on. We will continue to support flood relief by purchasing building materials and other supplies needed to get people back in their homes. We’ll be updating this page as we complete projects.
I am completely overwhelmed by the support and generosity of my fellow West Virginians. When I am asked why I love West Virginia I tell them about my experiences during the water crisis and during these flood relief efforts. The willingness of people to band together and help people in times of need makes me proud. West Virginians stick together. Volunteers have taken time off work and are working tirelessly to help those who have lost nearly everything…because that’s what we do. The bond between Mountaineers is strong as steel.
100% of flood relief donations to Aurora Lights is used to support our volunteers by reimbursing fuel costs and transportation. Monetary donations will also be used to purchase specific supplies needed for cleanup efforts. We won’t be using donations for salaries or organization expenses.
I would like to thank you all for supporting us in our efforts through Aurora Lights and the Mountain SOL School. I would also like to thank all of our volunteers for dedicating their time and funds toward flood relief. There are many organizations, businesses, and individuals throughout West Virginia that are doing their best to provide relief efforts. Our efforts are only a small glimpse into the hard work going into our state during this time of need. Any support is appreciated. We have a long road ahead of us. Cleanup and relief will be ongoing for months.