I took a sunday afternoon drive to Clendenin, West Virginia. Clendenin is a town in Kanawha County that was one of many areas that were affected by the flooding that occurred in the summer of 2016 when around 10 inches of rain fell in a 12 hour period. When it was all said and done 23 people lost their lives, 6 of those being in Kanawha County. It was one of the worst floods in West Virginia history and the deadliest flash flood in the US since the 2010 flooding in Tennessee. The destruction was so severe and widespread that the governor declared a state of emergency for 44 of the 55 counties in West Virginia.
Flooding in Appalachia is a subject that hits deep with me. The summer before my senior year of high school flash flooding hit southern West Virginia where I lived in Wyoming County. I wasn’t home at the time but the way my mother tells it the water rising only lasted about 20 minutes. That’s all it took. 20 Minutes for 4 feet of muddy water from the overflowing Guyandotte River to rush through our house and destroy everything we had. The river was at the end of our dead end street and normally didn’t have a depth of more than a few feet, but that day it had crested at 18-20 feet in places. During the actual flooding I was a few miles outside of town riding an atv through the mountains with a friend. Up until that point in my 17 years on this planet I had never been on an atv and I was having the time of my life speeding through the southern West Virginia landscape. To this day the irony kills me that while I was off enjoying myself, everything I had acquired in life was being destroyed.
When I arrived in Clendenin I was shocked to see it still in the shape that it was in. The flood happened in June of 2016, here it was January 2017 and it appeared as if the river had just ran through a couple of weeks ago. Piles of people’s belongings stacked in front of ruined homes, trash carried by the river hanging from tree limbs, rows of closed businesses, and the stench of dampness and mold filling the air. All of the terrible memories I had from the flood of 2001 came crashing back. It really makes me think of all of the money that is spent on something like a presidential campaign, where one person is basically just saying “look at how much of an asshole my opponent is”, when that same amount of money could easily be put to an area such as this and help people rebuild their lives.