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As flood waters rose on Memorial Day, Moss Burgess and his neighbors watched in horror as water surrounded a pickup truck on Route 44 in front of their homes. The men climbed to the roof of the truck and yelled for help--but no one was brave enough to wade into four feet of rushing water. Fortunately, the water didn't get much higher, and the men made it out safely.
About four miles closer to Logan, at the intersection of Route 44 and 73 in Mt. Gay, the Department of Environmental Protection offices flooded--again. A flood had destroyed many of the files of mine permits in 1996. This time the files were packed in cardboard boxes and stacked in the halls, ready for a move to a new office within a couple of weeks. Most of the files were a total loss--meaning, once again, citizens would probably have to go to DEP headquarters in Nitro and Charleston for information.
Soaked boxes (left). DEP offices surrounded by water.
Sadly, Moss Burgess had seen this all before--in 1996. Fortunately, his lovely colonial home was safe on a knoll, about the highest point of his alley. But his neighbors weren't so lucky. One man got high water in his garage. An 88-year-old woman at the end of the street has mold in her ductwork from the water that got into her house. She can't see or hear. Four days after the flood, no one had come to help her. She was just sitting--and waiting. Moss was doing what he could for her--and asked the National Guard members cleaning up the street to take away her garbage.
Flood insurance in the area is expensive. Moss' neighbor saw his jump from $300 to about $470. Still, the insurance company, which is in Florida, wasn't sure it would reimburse him for his garage.
Moss had led the committee that tried to get Island Creek cleaned out after the 1996 flood. He also helped convince Congress to appropriate $14 million in 1986 to dredge and shore up Island Creek from Mt. Gay into Logan. (see story) Since the state and local governments never coughed up the matching $4.5 million, nothing was ever done.
Debris is still in Island Creek from 1996. And Moss pointed out new bridges that are built lower to the river. Low bridges offer less clearance for floating debris in storms, and increase the odds that bridges will become dams, spreading water over low-lying areas.
Moss Burgess, a teacher whose father was a miner, also blames the mountaintop mining and logging along Island Creek for the huge amount of runoff in Island Creek. "These companies come in and strip and do anything to us," he said.