Watch CBS News

West Virginia town with unexpected history still recovering 7 years after deadly flood

West Virginia town recovering 7 years after flood
West Virginia town still rebuilding 7 years after devastating flood 02:25

White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, has attracted 28 U.S. presidents and even British royalty thanks to its mountains and iconic Greenbrier resort. The town was writing an unrivaled history until it was nearly wiped off the map by a 1,000-year flood in 2016.

McKenzie Moya was pregnant and returning from work when her home washed away.

"It's so hard to explain. Like, I can still see it to this day. It seems like it just happened yesterday," she said. "It came up off the foundation and floated about a football field away into my neighbor's house behind me."

Business owner Tom Crabtree said raging waters ripped apart downtown, triggered fires and landslides, and left 13 people dead.

"People sought refuge in trees. They climbed into their attics. They cut holes in the roof to get out on the roof," Crabtree said.

The city, which suffered millions of dollars in damage, has tried to rebuild ever since. The Greenbrier sheltered those left homeless in the aftermath and then raced to reopen.

"It was very important that they got back open after they helped serve the community," Moya told CBS News. 

It turns out, the resort hidden in the mountains has a long history of being a refuge.

From 1962 to 1992, there was a top-secret Cold War bunker for Congress hidden below the ground. Behind doors reinforced to block nuclear fallout, an auditorium was the backup U.S. House chamber, and there were 535 bunk beds for all the members of Congress.

"It wasn't just hunker-in-the-bunker. They were going to continue to function as the legislative branch," said Greenbrier historian Robert Conte.

During World War II, the Army turned the resort into a hospital, treating 24,000 wounded, according to the National Park Service.

Now, as the flood's 7-year mark nears, the resort is luring customers and money back to town. The resort's success will help businesses pay for the rebuilding and keep its workers and families, including Moya and her daughter, from having to move away.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.