Smithers gets lift from Guard in flood recovery efforts

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SMITHERS, W.Va. — Mayor Anne Cavalier is watching crews with the West Virginia National Guard remove tons of personal belongings of residents or her town destroyed in the Aug. 15 flash flood.

The Guard started its pick-up mission on Thursday and it’s scheduled to continue into next week.

Cavalier said they’re trying to be as compassionate as possible when removing the debris.

Anne Cavalier

“We talk about debris piles and debris management but we never forget. What we’re looking at are people’s pictures, people’s important papers, memories and mementos,” Cavalier said. “We’re trying very hard to be respectful and compassionate with what’s happening with these folks right now.”

Cavalier said at the same time debris removal can help residents move forward in the flood recovery efforts.

“They’re trying to get back to normal and you can’t do that with everything you’ve ever owned is sitting in a dirty, muddy pile in front of your house,” Cavalier said.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin got a look at the flood damage Friday. He was in Smithers with Cavalier and also made stops in Kanawha County at Point Lick on Campbells Creek and along Hughes Creek.

“Gayle and I continue to pray for the West Virginia families and communities impacted by the flooding over the past several weeks. We are grateful to the first responders and volunteers working tirelessly to help their communities and fellow West Virginians during this difficult time,” Manchin said in a news release. “I will continue working with national, state and local leaders to ensure the families and communities affected by the flooding in Kanawha and Fayette counties have the resources they need to rebuild and recover.”

Manchin also appeared in a video posted on Twitter with Cavalier, members of the Guard and Fayette County officials.

“As West Virginians we do what we can as quickly as possible to help get people back and that’s who we are as West Virginians,” Manchin said. “Any help of assistance or help that you think you can give is going to be much needed.

Guard makes a difference

The National Guard picked up 23 truckloads of debris in ‘The Dip’ community of Smithers Thursday and at least that much on Friday, moving its efforts up Cannelton Hollow Road.

Cavalier said the Guard can do what those in her town cannot.

“The really hard, dirty work is removing all of the debris from people’s homes and we don’t have the trucks for that. We don’t have the equipment for that,” Cavalier said. “With the kind of equipment, personnel and trucks, that just means everything. We are getting it out and people are going to be safer because we are removing it.”

Cavalier remains concerned about the ongoing issue with a sewer line that runs most of Cannelton Hollow from the state prison at Mount Olive.

“You don’t just have water, you don’t just have mud, you have the contamination that ruins things faster and then you have real health concerns,” she said.

Cavalier said she expected to have a good handle on damage assessments from the flood by the middle of next week.

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