The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 25, 2010

WIDESPREAD FLOODING

Flooding ravages Greenbrier; Summers residents brace for high waters today

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency for Greenbrier County and surrounding areas late Monday after widespread flooding was reported and emergency workers scrambled to evacuate low-lying areas, particularly those bordering the Greenbrier and New Rivers.

With the water rising, Ronceverte officials closed Island Park early Monday, according to city administrator Pamela Stevens. By late morning, the island’s amphitheater was submerged, she noted, and volunteer firefighters were evacuating residents from River Road and Monroe Avenue, where water had crept over the roadways. The U.S. 219 bridge was also closed because of high water.

“We’ve taken precautions at the sewer plant,” Stevens said, “and since much of the heavy equipment is on a trailer, it can be moved quickly, if needed. We’re hoping there won’t be much interruption of utility services.”

She said early afternoon predictions were that the river would crest between last night at around the 22-foot level. Flooding begins when the river reaches 17.5 feet in Ronceverte.

Further downstream, in Alderson, members of the volunteer fire department were going door-to-door advising residents of the high-water warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg, Va., according to town recorder Margaret Hambrick.

“The VFD has activated an emergency command post, and a shelter is open at the community center,” she said.

Hambrick said the NWS projected the river would crest at 20 feet in Alderson either late last night or early this morning, about a foot higher than the designation for “major” flooding.

To put that figure into perspective, Hambrick said the Greenbrier crested at 24.33 feet in Alderson in January 1996, the last big flood to hit the region. That flood caused millions of dollars in damage.

Also Monday afternoon, Tom Reynolds, owner of Riverview Exxon, was busy stacking sandbags around his business to try and keep the nearby river out. He said the river was rapidly rising.

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