County tracking flood damage, but disaster relief unlikely

by KATE SHUNNEY

It’s not likely that Morgan County or local residents will qualify for government disaster assistance to help with cleanup or repairs after June 3 flooding, according to county officials.

Sleepy Creek flowed over the bridge along Highland Ridge Road on June 3. photo courtesy of Laura Vess

Individual homeowners and businesses have been sorting through options to fix and pay for structures and property that were damaged when streams, creeks and rivers washed through multiple parts of Morgan County last Sunday.

The county and state declared a State of Emergency during the flood event.

West Virginia Division of Highways crews have been at work across the county since washouts left mud and rock on local roadways and undercut road edges and shoulders.

Asphalt collapsed on public roads in Paw Paw, along Highlan d Ridge in eastern Morgan County and on Fish Hatchery Road by the Virginia line. Private roads, bridges and driveways also received heavy damage, but those repairs are the domain of property owners, said Dick Myers, director of the Morgan County Office of Emergency Management.

Myers has advised residents that their first stop to finding help with repairs is with their home insurance company.

In some cases, flood policies will pay for damage to flooring, walls and furniture, residents have found. Damage to driveways and private bridges are another matter.

Jody Crouse is one of several people facing the problem of how to get home after high water washed out or damaged their driveway.

Crouse’s insurance company won’t cover heavy damage to the bridge that used to get her home over Sleepy Creek along Fish Hatchery Road. When Sleepy Creek flooded on June 3, debris drove water around the ends of her bridge and pushed trees and soil out of the banks.

Her insurance company said they wouldn’t pay for repairs because surface water did the damage. If her home had been damaged by floodwater, that would be covered.

Crouse’s insurance company suggested she contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help. FEMA said federal assistance is only available if the area receives a disaster declaration. The agency also said the Small Business Administration (SBA) can loan money to homeowners, renters and business owners to pay for disaster-related home repairs.

Myers and other county officials have said the one-day flooding won’t reach the federal definition of a disaster.

Commission President Joel Tuttle said last week that 100 homes have to be affected to the point that they can’t be occupied for 30 days in order for an event to qualify as a disaster.

According to FEMA, a governor has to make the request for a disaster designation and the President of the United States has to approve it.

“I hate to say homeowners are on their own,” Commissioner Tuttle said.

Myers said his office hasn’t gotten more than a dozen calls from people seeking help with flood-related damage. He has referred some to the Salvation Army and American Red Cross for flood clean-up kits. Other organizations like Starting Points have handled individual requests for help replacing appliances and damaged furniture.

Myers has asked residents who were affected by the June 3 flooding to send a photo and estimate of damage to his office, even if they have already made repairs. That information can be emailed to oes@morgancounty.gov or called in to 304-867-3145.

Property owners who suffered damage to farm crops or buildings can also contact Myers for other types of assistance.

Emergency alerts

County officials urged residents and county property owners to sign up for Morgan County’s Emergency Alert Program, which sends out notices about road closures and hazards in the area.

Multiple alerts were sent out to land line phones, cell phones and email addresses during the June 3 State of Emergency to notify subscribers of road closures and emergency evacuations.

Contact information from subscribers won’t be shared with any outside parties, Morgan County officials said.

A link to the alert system signup is on the county’s website at morgancountywv.gov. Users can specify how and on what device they receive emergency alerts.

Commissioner Bob Ford encouraged local residents to sign up for the program to stay safer during emergencies.

 

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