Jerry Miller, the fire chief of Rhodell, stood along side the firehouse two weeks after the flood, and gazed at the hillside to the northwest of the town. It was clear to him that what was on that hill certainly contributed to the flood.
The hill has been timbered recently. Like many logging sites in the flooded counties, it's not clear cut. But the best trees have been removed, leaving obvious gaps in the forest cover and roads carved into the hillside.
Miller, who works as a miner for a contractor to Massey Energy, doesn't hesitate to blame timbering for the flooding. It's clear, he said, that better regulations are necessary.
And that hill isn't the only place in Rhodell with timbering and mining.
As you drive up Tommy Creek, signs of mining and timbering will appear about two miles from the center of town. The timbering itself isn't visible from the road, but ridges on both sides of the creek were timbered in the past few years.
Until about a year ago, a beltline transported coal from the mines at the end of Tommy Creek to a prep plant some miles away. The remnants of the belt line remain, as well as some old roads along the mountain.
At the mine site, there was a huge washout during the flood. The road down from the mine became the stream, and a considerable amount of rock and gravel washed out of the road area, into the stream, causing much erosion.
Martha Thaxton lives about a half mile from the firehouse, on the edge of Rhodell. The timbered hilltop towers over her house, which sustained considerable damage in the flood. In the early 1970s, she fought for regulations on surface mining. After the flood, she talked with Charleston Daily Mail columnist Dave Peyton. (click for article)