Over two weeks after the floods that devastated parts of West Virginia, there is unfortunately still endless work to be done. Filling in the large gaps left by the official disaster response agencies, many communities and volunteer organizations are organizing to support those affected.
RAMPS has been especially impressed with the work of the Roush family, who have been coordinating volunteer work crews and sending them to communities along the Elk River since the beginning of this disaster. Here’s an interview we conducted with one member of the family at the work crew dispatch center and distro site they set up in the flood zone of Clendenin, WV.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Would you like to share your name and a bit of personal background? Where are you from? What’s the organization you work for?
My name is Pamela Roush and I am from Clendenin, WV. There is no name of our organization. My daugher-in law started it herself. We felt the need to start organizing volunteers to come out and help with flood relief because we have lived in Clendenin since 1971 and we love the people here. When I see them lose everything they have, I want to do anything I can to help them.
What are y’all doing here at the worker dispatch center?
My daughter-in-law, like I said, started this. We are set up at Bill’s used Cars. We have been getting different people to give us names of people we can help. As people come to help, we send them to work with those people. We have almost helped everyone on the list.
Is it mainly members of one family who are staffing this worker dispatch center?
It is actually my daughter-in-law, my daughter-in-law’s friend, and myself.
Could you tell us what Clendenin is like? What type of businesses are here?
We are a very small town. Not many people live here but it looks like a lot of the business here will be going under.
Would you be able to share what the needs are right now? A month from now? Two months from now?
The need right now is to work to get folks back into their homes. This means getting their homes and yards cleared of debris. There is a need for equipment that will haul debris off. There is also a need for providing food and shelter, anything like that.
Is there a need for more skilled workers in the coming months?
The community members need carpenters, people with electrical experience, and workers who know how to put sheet rock back up. The community affected by flooding is poor and does not have money to hire workers for these services.
Would you speak about FEMA and the role of other federal or state directed disaster organizations and their presence here in Clendenin?
In my experience, the Red Cross has stepped up. They have come in and met many of our needs. In addition, we’ve had Christian groups, people from all over the United States, even Senator Chris came and helped with the clean up and provided supplies. They’ve been working from daylight to dark.
However, FEMA, I have not seen hardly any help from them. For example,I was told that a family had a home on Jordan Creek that was worth $35,000. FEMA provided them about 330 dollars. Personally, I had rental property. I lost it, and FEMA is not going to help at all. These are people who have flood insurance, those without flood insurance are getting no help.
For more information on volunteering or other ways to support their efforts, contact Heather Roush at 304-546-7273 and for updates, check out the Elk River Flood Support & Information Facebook page.
Hello from Whitesville! Summer’s here in Appalachia, and it’s been an unusually hot and rainy one so far.
This is a long-overdue update on what all is new in our world. But first, a few words about this past week:
Here in the Coal River Valley, we didn’t get hit with serious floods last week, but several nearby counties saw historic levels of flooding. We’ve been volunteering to help clean out houses in Clendenin, in the northern part of neighboring Kanawha County. The extent of the devastation there is almost unbelievable – nearly two dozen people lost their lives! – but it’s heartening and powerful to feel Appalachian people coming together to support each other through this disaster.
This kind of event is not just a “natural disaster.” Like in the deadliest flood in WV history, the Buffalo Creek flood in 1972, human activity – specifically, resource extraction – is partly responsible. While it’s hard to tie any single event to global warming, climate change makes extreme storms more likely to occur, and we all know that burning Appalachian coal is a major contributor to climate change. More than 100 years of resource extraction (logging, strip mining, valley fills, unreclaimed mines) has ravaged watersheds, making runoff faster and intensifying the effects of flash floods. These intensified floods are then able to wreak more havoc because our political system prioritizes the economic “health” of the coal and gas companies and their investors, while neglecting roads, bridges, flood barriers, and other infrastructure.
We’re reminded of how important it is to build community resilience, autonomy, and power in the face of climate change to come, and the economic and ecological devastation that’s already here. We hope you’ll support us in doing so. If you want to get involved directly in our flood response efforts, drop us a line.
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Our friend and ally Lou Martin wrote this (in response to Nick Mullins’s blog post “The Problem with Environmentalism in Appalachia“) and asked us to post it. Although this isn’t an official communique from RAMPS, we’re posting it in the spirit of fostering dialogue so that our movement can be stronger and more effective… I […]
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