West Virginia Governor Requests Federal Aid After Massive Flooding

Jun 29, 2016
Originally published on June 29, 2016 7:44 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Severe thunderstorms in West Virginia last Thursday caused catastrophic flooding. At least 23 people were killed and thousands of homes were destroyed. West Virginia's governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, announced today the federal government has approved assistance for two more counties for a total of now 10. That means residents of those counties can apply for individual aid, but might wonder what they can count on getting.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra reports from a small town cleaning up mud and debris.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's all we got.

ASHTON MARRA, BYLINE: In Clendenin, the local grocery store, Smith's Food Fair, is the new center of town. Inside, the store is a mess - water damage everywhere caused by a few feet of rushing water. Outside, the parking lot has tidy rows of donated clothing and cleaning supplies. Free hot dogs and burgers are cooking on smoky grills.

Patsy Jett walks through the new outdoor aisles carrying a package of sponges and two bottles of sunscreen.

PATSY JETT: We have a mobile home, and it's completely destroyed. The water got up in it, and everything's destroyed that we had.

MARRA: Her husband says the now drained five feet of flood water has left behind a strong smell of sewage.

JETT: I don't know if we'll be able to recuperate or if they'll just - we just have to let the place go.

MARRA: Without flood insurance, the Jetts, who are retired, are left waiting to see what FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will do to help.

TIM ARMSTEAD: I'm sure it's going to be months of cleanup and trying to rebuild.

MARRA: West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead represents the Clendenin area. His home was damaged, too. The more than two dozen businesses here still do not have electricity or running water. Many of the town's buildings might need to be torn down.

West Virginia faced a $450 million budget deficit this fiscal year, and the state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Federal assistance might well mean the difference between staying and going for both businesses and residents.

Patsy Jett says she and her husband will stay put. They'll just rebuild on higher ground. For NPR News, I'm Ashton Marra in Clendenin, W.Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.