CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia may notably be one of the most flood-prone states in the country, but FEMA Coordinating Officer Jeff Jones says with $1.5 million in investments, the state is on top of its game when it comes to flood mitigation and resiliency.

Gov. Jim Justice officially declared Feb. 12-16 as Flood Resiliency Week in the state to recognize the impact flooding has had on communities and infrastructure.

In lieu of the designation, Jones came on MetroNews Talkline to discuss West Virginia’s flood resiliency efforts, which he said simply comes down to being better prepared to respond to a flood.

“The whole key here is to try to reduce future damages at all levels,” said Jones.

Jones said flood mitigation efforts in the state are top-notch because of those in charge such as Gov. Justice and officials with the WV Emergency Management Division have been true advocates for such mitigation to occur. He said between Oct. 2022 to 2023, the state invested $1.5 million in flood mitigation projects.

Jones said when FEMA reviewed the statistics in West Virginia and saw an average annual declaration for flooding at two times a year, he said that’s when they decided it was time to build up relationships and invest.

He said since then, those efforts have been paying off, as West Virginia is leading the way in flood mitigation efforts.

“That is how we have done it in this state and that has spread, West Virginia was one of the pioneering states with this approach by FEMA, and so it’s spreading across and others are seeing the advantages,” he said.

Jones said FEMA has an office in the state with over 30 staff members that are here year-round offering everything from preparedness to long-term recovery.

He said if there is impending weather that poses a risk of flooding, they already have local relationships established, from county emergency management up, and that allows FEMA to work together with them to respond to the flood and make the process go more efficiently.

From Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, 2023, severe flash flooding occurred across five counties, including Kanawha, Boone, Clay, Calhoun, and Harrison counties, and left a series of damages to homes and infrastructure in its wake.

Jones said FEMA currently has services deployed to those counties after they were finally able to obtain a federal disaster declaration on Jan. 31, fives months after that flood.

He said they have been deploying Disaster Assistance Survivor Teams out door-to-door to assess damages and assist affected residents with filling out disaster assistance applications to receive reimbursements from the damages, as well as having three Disaster Recovery Centers to further assist victims from that flood.

Jones said as the flooding was particularly severe and wider-spread in Kanawha County, they have made sure residents there have more accessibility to their services.

“We’re set up to respond, and one of the key things we did here in Kanawha County was that we recognized that the flooding didn’t happen all in one part, so we actually have Disaster Recovery Centers set up on both sides of the river,” he said.

The Disaster Recovery Centers are currently set up at the Belle Town Hall, 1100 E. Dupont Avenue in Belle, and the Penn VA Coal Carbon Center along state Route 61 in Chesapeake, 13905 MacCorkle Ave. There is also a center set up at the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg, 301 W. Main Street.

Jones said FEMA plans to continue to invest in flood mitigation projects and build relationships to achieve the highest-level of flood resiliency, which he said is crucial in tackling the problem of flooding in West Virginia.

“It’s the total of being prepared at your local level, all the way to the state level in investing in mitigation for infrastructure to help prevent future damages,” said Jones.

According to one study, West Virginia experienced more than 1,600 floods from 2010 to 2021.

In 2016, a particularly devastating flood hit the state and brought about a constant chain of rainfall over a 24-hour period across 12 counties. That storm claimed the lives of 23 people and destroyed thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses.