Volunteers are already serving near White Sulphur Springs and will soon be hard at work near the capital city of Charleston.
A wave of water left Thomas Harris with a sopping basement and trout from a nearby fish hatchery flopping in his yard. He knows it could have been even worse. Seared into his mind is the image of a neighbor’s home drifting upright in the Greenbrier River.
“If you didn’t see it, there’s no way I can explain it to you,” said Harris. “That water was a fierce, ugly monster. It was immediate. It was all down through there and there was no end to it. The only people who knew it was coming were the people it hit.”
All anyone could do was watch as the community of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and surrounding areas experienced a flood unlike any they’d ever seen. Houses and other buildings shifted from their foundations—some were swept away and destroyed in the raging waters.
Twenty-three deaths have been reported since nine inches of rain fell in eight hours on parts of southern West Virginia.
Our first teams of volunteers started Tuesday, June 28, in Greenbrier County where they helped homeowners by removing personal items, debris, and damaged walls and flooring. Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief staff and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains arrived quickly after the flooding to determine the extent of damages and to minister to residents.
Dozens of volunteers are racking up hundreds of hours of service to the devastated residents of the Mountain State. Praise God several individuals have come to faith in Christ so far. We have dozens of work orders to address, and more are expected in Greenbrier County. A second base in Charleston, the state capital, will soon open.
Volunteers Find Ways to Help
Faith Sims was in the area on an extended business trip with her husband. She’d watched the torrential rain pummel Lewisburg, West Virginia, where they were staying. Then she heard reports of the devastation in White Sulphur Springs and elsewhere.
“It was so horrible, and I felt so helpless,” she said. “Finally I started searching online for ways to help, and I found Samaritan’s Purse. I’m so glad I did.”
Faith quickly found herself hauling out the soaked contents of houses to the street and removing moldy drywall with a hammer and a crowbar. Then she found herself in the home of Carole and Kaster Ramsey.
Carole and Kaster had survived the storms with only the loss of belongings. Their neighbors had lost their lives—a father with his daughter and grandson, swept away in the house Thomas Harris had seen floating down the river.
Carole said she knew the family well.
“We aren’t the only ones hurting here. These people lost their lives. They were very good friends. The water’s been up before, and it would cross over and run up and run down Hershel’s driveway but never like this. Never. It just washed the house away,” Carole said, even as trucks hauled away the remains of the foundation of her neighbor’s home. “Kaster went to the window and saw it go and there wasn’t anything they could do.”
Faith says when she heard about what had happened to the neighboring family, it was devastating.
“That’s hard to tell people about,” Faith said. “Gone with people in it. I’m so glad there’s something and some way to help. As hard as this is, it’s truly living. I’ve always done clean, neat volunteer work, but this is real.”
When Angie Watson, wife of professional golfer Bubba Watson, saw the river rise and flow over cars, she also jumped into action—first delivering supplies in her husband’s truck and then joining Samaritan’s Purse mudout teams at our base at RHEMA Christian Center in Lewisburg.
“We watched it all unfold in a matter of less than an hour really,” Angie said. “It’d been raining for two days hard, and we were surprised the river hadn’t risen all that much, but in the course of that conversation we watched everything around the river flood.”
In addition to volunteers from the surrounding communities and from out of state, a number of volunteers have come from RHEMA Christian Center.
Pastor Stewart Farley said he’s been amazed at how his church and community have pulled together to help.
“When I went to the briefing today with FEMA and Homeland Security and Red Cross, they were saying that the number one priority is to get the mud and mold out of these homes,” said Stewart. “And I’m sitting there thinking ‘that’s exactly what we’re doing with Samaritan’s Purse right now.’ How you think that makes you feel? I feel honored and blessed to be a part of a congregation that wants to get out and do something for these hurting people and for the Kingdom of God.”
Please continue to pray for West Virginia residents affected by devastating floods and for Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers responding to the needs. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, go here.