Live

Watch CBSN Live

W. Va. Looks To Rebuild After Floods

The National Guard and Red Cross are helping residents in West Virginia's southern coalfields recover from weekend flooding that destroyed at least 400 buildings, knocked out power, and caused mudslides that flushed trash, debris and at least one mobile home downstream.

Residents are cleaning up the mess after flooding spawned by heavy rain Friday and Saturday destroyed or damaged buildings in Mingo and Wyoming counties. Roads in Mercer, McDowell and Raleigh counties also were damaged.

Appalachian Power reports that electricity has been restored to all but 244 customers in Mingo County.

Laverne Stout with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said truckloads of water and cleaning kits have been sent to Mingo and Wyoming counties.

Several roads remained impassable Monday morning, including U.S. 52 between Delbarton and Gilbert.

Gov. Joe Manchin toured the region and activated 300 Guard troops Sunday on top of the 30 he called up a day before when he declared a state of emergency for six counties.

No injuries have been reported and seven miners trapped underground because of high water were able to walk out of the Mountaineer Alma mine near Wharncliffe on Sunday morning.

Locals here are already worried about what comes next, in a state where unemployment is up to 18 percent. Gilbert, popular with tourists on the Hatfield McCoy ATV trail, had some of the worst damage, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberley Dozier.

Nancy Justice - a Hatfield herself - said her family's seen flooding before, but nothing like this.

"It was just like an ocean coming through the house," she told CBS News.

Dozier found the attitude of those who've lost everything has been to pitch in, help each other out, and dig out.

Marica White, whose home was destroyed by the rising floodwaters, has lived since 1972 near a stream which has risen at times over the years, told CBS Early Show anchor Julie Chen that "Rising water is not unusual. But before it may have taken out a fence, a shrub, a flower pot, something of that sort."

White said this weekend's downpour was very hard: "In fact, the hardest I've ever seen in my life, with the water rising faster than I've ever seen. And so our thought was, well, looks like we might get a little water in our basement."

But the water rose so high and so swiftly that within an hour, "It was looking like we might have to swim out or be rescued," she said.

She grabbed her pets and her purse, which was about all she and her husband could take with her as she got out.

White told Chen that her family is in the process of trying to salvage some belongings. "There was no water on the second floor of our house. The first floor is pretty much totally destroyed. The swimming pool, three-car garage, everything we've worked all of our lives to build and have is gone."

On Saturday on the road leading to the town of about 400 people, a mobile home broke loose and floated a quarter-mile before it was split in half by a poplar tree.

"I will never feel safe here again anytime it rains," said resident Jo Johnson.

"It was floating down the street like someone was driving it," said her husband, Milton Johnson, who was laid off last week from Massey Energy's Superior surface mine.

Now, this.

Johnson, 56, said he was awakened about 2:15 a.m. Saturday and within an hour, the couple and his 79-year-old mother, whose trailer next door was uprooted by rushing floodwaters, were forced to seek shelter on a nearby hillside. Johnson, whose home has flood insurance, said he's lived in Gilbert his entire life and this is the first time he's been flooded.

The road in front of Gilbert Furniture was stacked high Sunday with lounge chairs, couches and refrigerators. Nineteen years ago, the store's former location next door was flooded by nearby Gilbert Creek. The new building was built 3 feet higher.

It didn't matter.

The force of the floodwaters "blew the doors off their hinges," said Ricky Hatfield, who has worked 30 years at the store his parents own.

The high water mark is 2 feet up the wall and the store's mud-stained contents are a total loss. But Hatfield said the family had flood insurance and plans to rebuild the store that has been around for 65 years because business has been good.

Over at Tattoo Joe's, owner Joe Hinkle didn't have flood insurance for the business he's run for seven years.

"I can't salvage anything at all," Hinkle said. "It breaks your heart, you know? You work for years and in one night, it's gone."

Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood estimated 80 percent of the town's businesses were affected by high water. Donations of money, supplies and food were pouring into the town, Livingood said.

She said residents were advised to boil their tap water first before drinking because mud got into the water system, although the water plant is working.