Clendenin remembers historic flood 6 years later | WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business
CLENDENIN, W.Va. – Many homes have been rebuilt in the town of Clendenin, Kanawha County, since the 2016 flood, but Mayor Kay Summers says even six years later, her town hasn’t fully recovered.
“Some people were told they were going to have their homes demolished and for some people that didn’t happen,” Summers told MetroNews on Tuesday.
On June 23, 2016, historic flooding ravaged much of West Virginia and claimed 23 lives as heavy rains poured in, stagnated for hours, and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
The storm raised water levels on the Elk River in Clendenin and Elkview, driving more than eight feet of water into Summers’ home.
“We stayed here because we knew there was nowhere else to go,” Summers said.
Nicole Holcomb moved to Clendenin less than a year before the flood. She had about four feet of water in her newly remodeled home.
“We bought the house in November, started renovating it, then flooded it in June,” she said.
Holcomb has since rebuilt but says she can’t help but think the worst every time it rains.
“When it rains, you start looking at the river. Before, it was like ‘oh, look at the river!’ Now it’s like ‘what are you going to do?’ “, did she say.
She and many other families were left with nothing but the clothes they wore.
In an effort to make Clendenin whole again, Summers decided to go on the campaign trail. She was elected mayor of Clendenin in 2019.
“That’s the only reason I ran for mayor, to make it easier,” she said.
The road to recovery, however, has not been quick. Summers said the city still faces obstacles getting more funds to rebuild homes. The hardest task was getting a new grocery store. She said residents still had nowhere to buy food.
“Our nearest store is in Elkview and therefore 10 miles from here,” she said.
Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (WV VOAD), told MetroNews that 2,300 families statewide have recovered since the flood and the latest surge has been difficult. .
“We knew the last 300 to 400 houses were going to be the most difficult because it would require mitigation, acquisition and family relocation,” Gannaway said.
The goal is to complete about 20 remaining homes through RISE West Virginia by early fall, Gannaway said.
“By the end of this year, we’re going to get everyone back to a home that’s been impacted,” she said, adding that the state is now better prepared to respond to flooding.
New Clendenin Primary School
Clendenin Elementary School was destroyed in the flood and is now being rebuilt on a mountaintop site just off US Route 119 on Wolverton Mountain Road.
FEMA approved $27 million in federal funds for the project in June 2020. The money represents 90% of the total cost.
Construction was halted in October 2021 after the discovery of pyritic sulfur in the soil. Officials had hoped to complete the project in August, but a spokesperson for Kanawha County Schools told MetroNews on Wednesday that the timeline for completion was unknown.
“KCS has found acceptable options for new fill earth for the site and is currently negotiating prices,” spokeswoman Briana Warner said in an email. “We still expect to resume construction work at the site this summer. There is no new completion date for the project yet, but once they can resume work, we expect rapid progress. ”
In the days following the flood, then-President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for West Virginia counties. Then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency and called the flooding “among the worst in a century”.
Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties were the hardest hit.
At the time, Kanawha County Commission Chairman Kent Carper told MetroNews that Clendenin was inaccessible due to high water.
“Clendenin has essentially become an ally. We couldn’t get to Clendenin,” Carper said in 2016.
High water at Greenbrier Resort, owned by the current Governor. Jim Justice, forced a brief closure of the White Sulfur Springs facility.
High school programs were hit statewide, including the Clay County High School Football Team and the Herbert Hoover High School Marching Band. Each of these programs lost equipment in the flood.
In Elkview, a bridge collapsed at the Crossings Mall exit of I-79, leaving shoppers stranded for two days until another access road was built. A new bridge has since been rebuilt.
The towns of Richwood and Rainelle were also under water, but residents never gave up hope.
“It will come back,” Richwood resident Virginia Bennett told MetroNews in 2016. “It will come back stronger than ever.”
Clendenin welcomes new businesses
Since the flood, Clendenin has opened up new bike paths, boat ramps for kayakers and others to use the Elk River, and new Air bnbs are generating much-needed revenue.
Clendenin Brewing Company on Main Street is scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Saturday. Co-owners Matt and Nikki Holbert have been busy whipping up seven different beers for customers to try.
Nikki Holbert said their business would be a much-needed boost to the community right now.
“Everybody’s been trying to come back and grow since then, so it’s still a process,” she said.
The Clendenin Library was flooded and is being rebuilt with newsstands in town and a playground across the street.
In addition to single-family homes, new apartments are springing up, including facilities for the elderly.
The city is also building a stage at the end of Main Street where bands can play outside and other events can take place.
“The town of Clendenin is coming back. It’s going to be bigger and it’s going to be better,” Summers said.