Thursday, November 4, 2010

The November 4, 1985 Flood: Memoriam

Yesterday we were moving a table, looking for a place to put the new gas heater, when a stack of books toppled. But out of the pile of books on the floor slipped this one:



It was a book about the worst flood in the history of West Virginia, a devastating deluge of water that wiped out entire communities, homes, roads, bridges, and farms. I sat right down to read the book once again, and to once again try to grasp the incredible destruction that occurred 25 years ago on this date.

The mountains are prone to flooding because of their very geography. A heavy storm will send water coursing down the mountains' sides into streams, creeks and rivers. The waterways can't carry off the volume of water quickly enough in some cases and overflow their banks. It's not a good idea to build your home on a riverbank in a mountain state like this one, but in the 1985 flood homes far back from the waterways were flooded because the volume of water was so immense.

My friends Matthew and Jason Burns have both written about the flood. They were young boys at the time and lived in the area devastated. Their families scrambled to get home and to survive. Their aunt was reported to have drowned, but disproved that fact by turning up very much alive. Matthew's blog posts and Jason's article in the WV Storytelling Guild's newsletter both reflect the taut, tense hours and days during the flood and after the water receded. As Jason says, his life is measured from this point--events before the flood, and events after.

To drive through Pendleton, Preston, Tucker, Grant, and Hardy counties today, you might not notice the flood's effect. What you can't see is what was--the hundreds of missing homes and businesses, the communities that never recovered, the 47 people whose lives were lost. There are still places where the rocks piled along the rivers suggest the memory of the flood.

But talk to anyone who lived there when the waters raged and you will see the strongest impact of the night the waters ran rampant. It is in their eyes.

5 comments:

Angela said...

Hey Granny Sue!

I think you have just uncovered a mystery that I've often wondered about every time I see the rocks piled up high at the bottom of the hill at Dolly Sods. There are rocks that are very large piled up along the creek banks in that area. If that area was affected by the flood people have since then rebuilt along the creek.

George said...

Weird, that exact book was on my desk this evening when I got home from work. I think Grace had it out looking at it. Great minds.....

Granny Sue said...

I think you're talking about where Jordan Run comes out on 55, Angela? You're right, I think--that probably is why the rocks are there. My son George, or Matthew or Jason would probably know for sure.

That is funny, George. I never even noticed that it was the anniversary date at first, just started looking through it. The photo of that cow stuck in the bridge is one I've never forgotten. And the one of the little boy sitting so dejected on his porch after days of trying to clean up. What an undertaking that was. Can you imagine digging four feet of mud out of your house? Impossible. And yet they did it--that, and so much more hard, hard work just to make a place to live. And think, winter was coming too.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I remember that flood.
Such a sad time for our home state.

Douglas Imbrogno said...

See the link at the new web magazine http://WestVirginiaVille.com to the 11/05/10 Gazette story and video on the 1985 flood. I will add a link in that story to this page and the other remembrances you mention. | Douglas I.

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