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MATEWAN

    Matewan was hit hardest the afternoon and evening of Saturday, June 13, -- at the height of the annual Hatfield-McCoy Reunion. In fact, three local men from Rawl who were attending the festival on their four-wheelers had to be rescued from the flood. Their four-wheelers washed out from under them when water rushed out from Cumberland Village across from the high school.

    A large pool of water, about three feet deep, remained Sunday morning. No markers warned drivers, so an unfortunate elderly woman drove her car into the pond. Elmer Prator, who was helping the woman, said the mines at Rawl Sales caused the huge runoff.

    Indeed, a permit sign for Massey Energy's Rawl Sales mine marks the entrance to the hollow across from the school.

 

 

After last summer's floods, Massey reconstructed the football field at the high school. Some repair will be necessary after the June 2004 floods.

    Water poured out of Warm Hollow above the historic center of Matewan on Saturday night. Scotty Newsome was helping shovel rocks off the road when I arrived Sunday morning. "It never flooded like this," he said. He noted that the Corps of Engineers had worked on an old mine pond up in the hollow a few years ago. But he had a different theory about the flooding. He thought that the increasing number of four-wheeler trails on the hills was channeling more water down into the communities.

Washout from Warm Hollow above Matewan.

    Matewan is protected from overflows of the Tug River by a flood wall built after the 1977 floods. It was closed during the 2003 flooding and spared the town. Nonetheless, the Tug River below Matewan--by Thacker-- is being heavily impacted by mountaintop removal on the Kentucky side. The mines are clearly visible as you drive up Route 49 towards Matewan.

    Bill Mayhorn, a retired miner, has been watching--and complaining about--the mining and logging on the Kentucky shore. Blasts have cracked his foundation and shaken his house. The Kentucky mining inspectors at least take those complaints, he said, though the blasts continue.

    What the Kentucky inspectors are unable to control is the runoff into the Tug River. Mayhorn has watched the mine workers end dump soil and logs right into the Tug. "They tell me they can't do anything about the river," he said. "It can rain 15 minutes and that side of the river gets plumb muddy."

Tug River in front of Bill Mayhorn's home morning after June 13 rain.