Kanawha County flood assistance request rejected

The U.S. Route 60 flash flood back on August 15 did considerable damage in eastern Kanawha County but not enough for federal disaster assistance.

Gov. Jim Justice’s office learning Thursday the Biden administration had rejected Kanawha County’s request for public and individual assistance following the high water that damaged infrastructure and homes on Campbells Creek and Hughes Creek.

GE McCabe

“We’re very frustrated by this decision,” state Emergency Management Division Director GE McCabe said. “The Governor’s Office and WVEMD worked incredibly hard with Kanawha County officials to complete damage assessments and assure that the application met the criteria to receive assistance. While we’re disappointed, WVEMD is now working with the
Governor’s Office to appeal the decision.”

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he feels bad for the flood victims.

“This was a White House decision. Governor Justice did everything and beyond. This was a Biden White House decision, shame on them,” Carper said.

FEMA said there wasn’t enough damage in Kanawha County for assistance because most of the homes damaged got water in crawl spaces and basements. FEMA also said damage to much of the infrastructure including roads and other areas are covered by other federal funding.

Carper called it “alphabet soup, Washington Beltway-style.”

“They’ve come up with this new thing where they don’t allow projects that have already been paid for under certain federal programs,” Carper said.

Fayette County sustained damage in the same Aug. 15 flood. The county learned Wednesday it has been approved for public assistance. The same for McDowell County which saw flooding on July 12-13.

Aug. 15 flood at Cannelton Hollow at
Smithers. (MetroNews )

Bobby Bowman, deputy director of the McDowell County Office of Emergency Services, said the federal declaration is for public assistance, not for individual homes.

Bowman said the damage amount was “sizable.”

“Several million dollars in public assistance, now what they get back, I don’t really know how that will pan out. They will get back a portion of it,” he said.

Much of the work to repair damaged roads and bridges has already been complete, Bowman said.

“A lot of that has been fixed already. The state has been working on it since it happened whether they let out contracts or what have you. Through this public assistance, they will be able to recover the expenditures on that,” he said.

The impacted areas included Warriormine and Berwind.

Bowman said there was significant damage to 75 homes and dozens of roads and bridges in McDowell County.

Gov. Justice declared a State of Emergency for McDowell County at the time to accelerate the state’s response to the water damage in the county. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has declared a similar State of Emergency for Buchanan County.

Kent Carper

Carper said the county commission made calls to the state’s congressional delegation Thursday after learning of the rejection.

“This is a federal government responsibility, it’s there program and in my opinion they’ve failed the people of West Virginia miserably,” Carper said. “Our only hope is our congressional delegation to bring the White House to their senses, assuming they have any.”

McCabe said the state will work on the appeal for Kanawha County but it’s also waiting on word from the White House on requests from other summer flooding.

“We remain hopeful of positive news regarding Doddridge, Jackson, and Mingo counties which remain under federal review,” McCabe said.

MetroNews Reporter Carrie Hodousek contributed to this story.