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A low lying area just southeast of Route 119, Belo suffered some of the worst damage in the Memorial Day flood. At least a couple dozen houses and mobile homes sustained several feet of water in basements and living rooms. A month later some were already marked for demolition with orange numbers. Others were still awaiting aid from FEMA.
Some flood victims refused to leave. Instead they were staying in camper trailers provided by FEMA while they awaited approval of SBA loans and FEMA individual assistance grants.
Ida Evans lived in the house on the left. Her daughter, Amanda Marcum, lived next door in a two-year-old mobile home.
A month after the flood, Ida Evans, her husband, her daughter, Amanda Marcum, and her husband and young daughter had two FEMA trailers for temporary housing and were preparing for a big family 4th of July celebration.
The Marcums had already gotten a SBA loan to replace their double-wide, which had mold damage. She also got $5,000 in an individual FEMA grant for lost belongings. Fortunately, Amanda's husband works for the double-wide dealer so they got a good deal. Their loan payments will increase from $303 a month to $464 a month. Though the Marcums had a loan for their existing double-wide, the bank did not require flood insurance because it was not in a mapped flood plain. Now the SBA loan requires her to get flood insurance, but FEMA will pay the first three months.
Ida Evans was still waiting to hear whether she was approved for a loan to replace her house with a mobile home. She did get a FEMA grant of $15,400 for damaged belongings. This wasn't her first disaster. Her house and appliances had been damaged by a power surge a few years earlier. A nearby utility pole had fallen and shorted out the circuits. Only after she got a lawyer, did the power company pay her $6,000, less than half her total damages.
Evans owns the land along the river as part of an heirship of 28 acres owned by 48 heirs. She doesn't want to leave because she's afraid she would lose rights to the land. The first FEMA inspectors told her she would have to move. She told that to staff from Sen. Jay Rockefeller who stopped by. Then FEMA staffers asked her not to say that anymore and that she could stay. "I couldn't handle that--not come back and live here," Evans said.
But the rain scares her. Now when the skies open like a fire hose, Evans takes her families and goes to a high spot on the four-lane.
Though Belo was pounded by a build up of high water in Pigeon Creek, residents of several large creeks that drain into Pigeon before Belo blame logging for some of the heavy runoff.
Conley Branch is about a couple of mile up the creek from Belo. The head of Conley Branch was logged a couple years earlier. "They timbered the whole hollow," Willis Spence told me.
This time places flooded along Conley that had never flooded before, his friend Richard Curry told me. In fact a 90-year-old resident of the hollow said it had never flooded before.
Washout half way down Conley Branch. At right, a cut log can be seen sitting at the center in washout below the logging site.
"Too much strip mining and timbering," Spence said. "They are raping the hills."
"They used to use mules for logging," he added. "Now they cut a road to every tree." Old-timers had told me this after the 2002 flood in McDowell County.
"We're not against timbering," Spence said. "But there's a right way and a wrong way. Nobody comes out and watches them. You rarely see them put up a silt fence."
The next land disturbance facing the top of Conley Branch is the permit for Consol mountaintop mine that has been in limbo for half a dozen years. Held up partly by lawsuits and partly by financial restructuring at Consol, Spence and his friends expect the mining to starts soon. "I look for them to fill in the whole hollow," he said.
A few miles closer to Delbarton, Pigeon Creek also washed out badly. About a half a mile up the creek, Dallas Runyon had his own problem from an abandoned mine. Though this runoff probably didn't add a lot to the overall deluge of water that landed at Belo, it did some damage to the back of the Runyon's house. Ironically, their son is a mine inspector at DEP, and he had urged his parents to call DEP and have the old mine sealed up properly.