Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Recent Flooding In West Virginia And What You Can Do To Help

Over the last few days, my home state has been hit with massive amounts of rainfall which has led to intense flooding all over the state, but some of the worst areas have been in the southern half of the state. Entire towns were under water, and some people have even lost their homes.  I watched as my social media feed was filled with images and videos that my friends were capturing as they watched the waters roar. 

The waters have largely receded now, and now comes the cleanup. The cleanup is not what people typically imagine. People think about gathering scattered debris, or wiping down some surfaces in homes that remain intact, but it is so much more. I grew up on the Ohio River. There is a floodwall that surrounds my hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia. In my lifetime I can only remember a few times that the floodwall was sealed off. The longest time was during the flood of 1985, but even just a few years ago, the waters rose high enough to cover most of the small park that exists outside the floodwall where the Little Kanawha and the Ohio Rivers meet. As the waters receded, the park area was covered with mud and muck that was about 2 inches deep. The fire department was deployed to wash the mud off the walkways and roads of the small park, otherwise, it would have remained muddy, mucky, and nasty.
When my dad was growing up, the floods seemed to come annually to the small house he and his siblings grew up in along the same stretch of the Ohio River. They would evacuate, and then return when the waters had receded. He remembered having to get snakes out of the house that had washed in with the flood waters, or which had slithered their way in to a place of temporary shelter. And then it was time to get to work clearing out the mud and the muck, and trying to discern what was salvageable.

That same scenario is being lived out by thousands of West Virginians right now. Their homes, if they were not washed away, may be damaged beyond repair. Some of these people live outside what is considered to be the flood zone for their area, so there are questions about whether insurance will help them recuperate their losses. And they need to wait for a visit from the insurance agents to help them discern.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now, people are dealing with the immediate. They are working with groups like Team Rubicon and other first responders to begin the massive cleanup, to conduct search and rescue operations for missing people. There are still people unaccounted for, and there are more than 20 dead. Forty-four of this state’s 55 counties were declared in a state of emergency.

In a moment like this, it is easy to wonder what a person can do to help. The desire is there for most of us, but there is also a degree of uncertainty. There are shams being created to exploit people’s generosity, and there have also been rare instances of looting in the wake of this disaster. But that’s not the way of most of the people of this state, or of this world. We want to help, and many of us make assumptions about what is needed, many relief workers call this a “second disaster.” This is where good intentioned people send items that are of little or no use to the people in need. In this instance here in West Virginia, first responders and relief workers have done a great job being extremely specific about needs. West Virginia University students have an incredibly organized website and volunteer effort to collect needed material donations. If you can, donate some time to help organize resources to be sent to the areas of need.

If you live further away, you can donate to organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, or Team Rubicon to support disaster response efforts. Personally, Jamie and I chose to give to Team Rubicon’s flood response efforts. This organization is led by former Marines, and they are bringing their crisis response training to deploy volunteers in chaotic environments in an organized way. They are not only bringing their skills into the environment, they are also providing both civilians and other veterans an outlet for continuing to use their training to serve others. In every interaction I’ve had with their staff team and volunteers I have been fully impressed. In fact, as full disclosure, Jamie and I have also signed on to be volunteers and receive training.

Whatever you can do to help, do it. If you have time and skills that can help with the response in southern West Virginia, deploy with a reputable group like those listed above and serve. If you are not available to help directly, or you can’t donate goods like those listed on the United Way website above, donate to an organization you know does great work! I am incredibly proud of the way people in our state have rallied to support these efforts, and I know that my fellow West Virginians will always make the best out of a difficult situation. We are a resilient community, a community that supports one another, and one that holds firmly to a commitment to service.

1 comment:

Dr Purva Pius said...
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