The Parkersburg News and Sentinel published this editorial on June 26:
State officials spent a moment Wednesday observing the five-year anniversary of deadly flooding in West Virginia. The rushing water took 23 lives, destroyed businesses and left hundreds of families without a safe place to live. In the wake of the tragedy, the need was so great entire new levels of bureaucracy were created … which subsequently had to be reined in and put back on track by the West Virginia National Guard.
Politicians issued somber but inspiring statements to mark the anniversary. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., for example, had this to say:
“ … one thing withstood this tragedy, and that was our West Virginia spirit. We saw neighbors, friends, families, and strangers helping each other during this difficult time. That same spirit–that West Virginia way–is what makes me so proud, and it is what motivates me each and every day as a public servant. Today on the fifth anniversary of the flooding, I ask that West Virginians keep showing that West Virginia spirit that we are known for.”
Note the use of past tense in referring to the difficulties created by that flooding. It gives a sense of finality that is still — STILL — not felt for more than 100 affected families. According to numbers provided by the West Virginia Development Office, as of April 2021 there remain 102 active cases to be resolved: 72 reconstruction projects, 1 rehab project and 29 mobile home replacements.
To be fair, the past year has brought unprecedented challenges for state government and the National Guard, yet they have 156 more projects completed than they did in March 2020. But for goodness sake where is the sense of urgency over the course of a mind-boggling five years while these families still suffer? (And, don’t forget, while other natural disasters have put many more families in line to need help.)
State government proved during the COVID-19 pandemic that it could move effectively at lightning speed and get a job done well … when the job was important to them. What message does that send those who have been in limbo since June 23, 2016?
Where there is a will, there is a way, in West Virginia. We know that, after the events of the past year. Let’s find the will to finish the job for the folks still feeling the effects of floodwaters that receded five years ago.