CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has made a formal request to President Joe Biden to declare a federal Disaster Declaration in connection with several rounds of flooding in West Virginia from July 12 to Aug. 15.
Justice said Friday the request covers damage in Doddridge, Fayette, Jackson, Kanawha, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties.
The request says the state received up to 200% of its normal rain levels during the period and did not see one 24-hour period without rain. Justice issued several states of emergency including on July 14 for McDowell County, July 28 to cover Fayette, Greenbrier, Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties and on Aug. 15 following significant flash flooding after rain in parts of Kanawha and Fayette counties.
“I hope that President Biden and FEMA will go along and agree and approve our request as quickly as possible because it would sure help a lot of folks in West Virginia,” Justice said.
According to the request, there were more than 75 homes damaged in the July 14 storm in McDowell County along with approximately a dozen bridges and numerous roads. The July 28 southern coalfields storm caused “significant local flooding, downed trees, power outages, disruption to potable water systems, and road blockages.”
The Aug. 15 event damaged more than 100 homes along with roads and bridges north of U.S. Route 60 in Kanawha and Fayette counties.
Justice said he hopes the request is answered quickly so residents can “get back to some level of normalcy.”
Kanawha County request
Kanawha County had originally submitted $974,000 in damages for public infrastructure damage including stream damage on Campbells Creek and Hughes Creek. The request is now at $741,000 after FEMA refused to allow stream damage to be counted. The Kanawha County Commission is asking the state’s congressional delegation to discuss the situation with FEMA.
“There is a possibility we will not get a disaster declaration,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said at the commission’s Thursday evening meeting. “We would’ve gotten a disaster declaration had they not moved the goalposts. We would have gotten a disaster declaration had they (FEMA) not interpreted us out of a half million dollars in damages.”
Carper said damage from the Aug. 15 flood isn’t as high-profile as the damage caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida but it is no less significant to those who experienced it.
“If you’re sitting up on Campbells Creek or you’re sitting anywhere that got flooded, Hughes Creek, wherever, and your property damages are the same as in Florida or Georgia or wherever, you should be treated the same,” Carper said.
Carper said the state Office of Homeland Security has done an excellent job in the weeks after the flooding. He said the county’s issue is with FEMA. Carper said he’s confident the county’s damage number is correct.
“I can’t think of anything else to do other that what they’ve done. Our people have done everything possible to document these damages,” Carper said.
The main sewer line from Mount Olive State Prison down Cannelton Hollow was among the damage caused by the Aug. 15 flood in Fayette County. Homes in the Cannelton area sustained damage along with a section of Smithers. An area in Gauley Bridge known as Scrabble Creek was also hit hard.
It’s now wait and see for all of the areas included in the request.
According to the governor’s office, “The granting of a federal disaster declaration is contingent upon FEMA’s review and the President’s authorization. There are no time constraints once the request has been submitted to FEMA.”