July 4, 2016 will be one holiday that will live on in the memories of many people. Some folks are calling it a thousand year flood, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime.

I wrote in my dairy on Thursday, June 23, “Boy, what a rain! A thunderstorm moved in about 5:30 this morning and knocked out the power, and at noon it’s still out. More rain has moved in and the little branch that runs by our house has overflowed and the creek is booming and is over the road.

“With the electric power out, we have no water except what is falling from the sky. (I thought of the line of the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge which said, “Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink!” On Friday, I wrote, “More of the same-it rained and rained and then rained some more. Water surrounded our house and it looked as if we were adrift on a muddy lake.”

The creek was full to overflowing and the current was so fast that it picked up a big outbuilding beside our garden and deposited it several yards further on down in our yard. It was beginning to look pretty scary, with the water pouring off the hill from the barn in torrents and the creek rising higher.

Our grandson, Josh, lives across the driveway and closer to the creek, and we watched helplessly as the muddy water poured through his basement windows, where the boys’ bedrooms and the washroom utilities are located.

The water was two feet deep in the basement, and of course the furniture was floating. To make it worse, they were on vacation at the beach and had to come home to this!

This was nothing compared to what our neighbors down the creek suffered. Our calm little creek, which usually ran sluggishly, was transformed into a raging river. Bridges were washed out, basements flooded, trailers washed off their foundations, gardens completely wiped out, and two mobile homes were wrapped around a tree. One double-wide trailer was slammed up against their garage and destroyed. All the bridges down our holler and on Route 4 to Clay were washed away, except one.

With the power outage (and no newspaper) we had no access to the outside world and didn’t realize the devastation until the power came back on after three days. (Thank the Lord for generators!) It was much worse than we could imagine. All up and down Elk River, it was a scene of destruction. The town of Clendenin was so swallowed up by water that traffic, except for residents and rescue workers, was banned.

While residents in low-lying areas scooped mud, dragged out sodden furniture and tried to dry belongings, Greenbrier County suffered the biggest loss. Embedded thunderstorms were blamed for the ten inches of rain that fell there during a 12-hour period, as it did in Clendenin. The worst tragedy however, is the loss of 22 lives with one still missing and presumed dead.

There are many horror stories that are emerging now, of narrow escapes and acts of bravery, some of which we will never know. My nephew Eric and his helper Jamie were coming home from Charleston when Route 4 was blocked by the flooding, and they turned around and went back to Clendenin. The river was rising rapidly, and they took refuge in the Advent Church beside the highway. As the water rose, they climbed higher until they reached the balcony.

There they took refuge for 30 hours without food or water. When they finally made their escape, they climbed the hills above the highway, clinging to shrubbery and roots. (This reminds me of “Follow the River!”) It was dark, slippery and muddy, and scary. They were joined by a hound dog that was probably trying to find his home, and on they went, uphill and down, until they saw the welcome sight of the interstate. Eric was able to call his wife, who rescued them.

The recovery goes on, as homes, businesses and lives were destroyed by the record flooding that hit our state so unexpectedly. There is a silver lining however, in all this devastation. It is heart-warming to see neighbors pitching in and sharing their homes, labor and food to the less fortunate. My Cousin Evelyne was trapped in her home without electric power or water. She had food, but no way to cook it. Her bridge was washed away, and her vehicles buried in mud and water. She had no way to communicate with the outside world.

As the water receded, my brother-in-law Jim and his grandsons, Geordie and Neil, were able to wade the creek and bring her some food. There are many, many instances of folks going the last mile to help their neighbors. There has been such an outpouring of donations from groups and people outside the state that it is mind-boggling. One lady drove five hours to bring a load of supplies, and there have been truckloads of supplies from different states brought to distribution centers.

It will take a long time for things to get back to normal, but West Virginians are not quitters. We have always been known for our grit and fortitude, and this is just another obstacle in our way. God is our Strength and Refuge, a very present Help in time of trouble. With Him, we will succeed!

By Edgar A. Guest
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “oh, you’d never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

(I wonder if I could be classed as a “flood victim.” While our power was off, I was carrying a candle to light my way to bed, when I caught my toe in the dark and fell full length on the hardwood floor. After floundering around in pain for over a week, I had an x-ray yesterday which revealed rib fractures and fluid on my lung. Yes, Dixie, another broken bone!)

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer