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Officials gauge flood damage

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV
June 16, 2010
Officials gauge flood damage
KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — Local, state, and federal agencies are teaming up to assess the damage to roads and property caused by flooding across McDowell County, though they are still waiting on an official damage estimate.

“The assessment is a joint effort between FEMA and state departments,” said Paul Howard, director of operations for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The damage assessment consists of how much damage and where the amount of damage is. The main goal is to come to a consensus on how many homes are destroyed and how bad the damage is. We have to determine whether a home is destroyed, has major damage or minor damage.”

Howard said the hardest part of the assessment is determining how bad the damage is at a particular location.

“The biggest thing about the process is making sure the extent of damage is catalogued,” he said. “We are looking at where a particular structure falls into the continuum of damage.”

The teams assessing the damage are working as quickly as possible so Gov. Joe Manchin can sign the request for aid to be sent to President Barack Obama under the Stafford Act. According to Howard, the local weather forecast has made assessing the damage a race against the clock.

“We are trying to get it all done [Tuesday] because of how the weather is looking tomorrow, and we don’t want to put anyone in danger,” Howard said.

Howard encourages local residents to keep in touch with emergency services throughout the damage assessment process.

“Residents should stay in touch with their local office of emergency services, charitable organizations such as the Red Cross or Salvation army and their county commission so we can better help lead people through this process,” Howard said.

Tom Camden, district manager for the District 10 Division of Highways, said the preliminary estimate for road repairs in Wyoming and McDowell counties is already at $3 million.

“We are still waiting for the water to go down around bridges to get a full estimate,” Camden said. “We know the estimate will go up. We have some areas we just recently repaired from last year’s flood that we need to repair again.”

The primary focus of the highway department is to make sure all residents have access to roads.

“Our main goal initially is to ensure everyone has a way in and a way out,” Camden said. “We are continuing to look at secondary roads at this time. As always, we’ll dedicate as many resources to repairing the roads. It’s difficult to put a date on it. It depends a lot on weather and available resources.”

Camden said other agencies are pitching in to help repair damaged roads and bridges.

“We are receiving assistance from crews from up north and from the Lewisburg area,” Camden said.

He advises local residents to report any road or bridge damage they see.

“I would advise people to report any road or bridge problems to their local office,” Camden said. “We have a local office in Pineville and one in Havaco.”

McDowell County Manager Cliff Moore does not have an official dollar estimate on the damage, but the preliminary estimate indicates between 125 and 200 homes were damaged in the flooding.

“At this point, we haven’t arrived at an official estimate,” Moore said. “We are still assessing the damage to make sure we have as close to the actual dollar estimate as possible. We are making empirical estimates as well as house by house estimates.”

According to Moore, different types of damage must be assessed using different measures.

“We’re making empirical estimates on highways because we can obviously see the damage there,” Moore said. “As to personal and property damage, we have to investigate it on a site-by-site basis, which takes a voluminous amount of time.”

Moore encourages residents to report to their local emergency services manager if they feel like their damage has not be assessed.

“Damage needs to be reported through the local emergency manager,” he said. “I encourage everyone to get in contact with their local emergency manager in case they have been missed or a local area has been missed so we can get to everyone.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com