KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Emergency crews from across Kanawha and Fayette counties helped evacuate multiple people during flash flooding that hit eastern Kanawha County on Monday, including several people with medical needs and even a one-week-old baby girl.
Kanawha County 911 dispatchers said on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, that they took more than 700 calls in the morning hours due to the severe weather that caused flooding throughout communities in eastern Kanawha County. Around 10:30 a.m. that morning, crews were on the scene of 12 active water rescues, and at least 22 had been successfully completed by 3 p.m.
The storms produced more than nine inches of rainfall in some areas.
According to Tracey Gray with the Ansted Fire Department, a call went out around 7:30 a.m. Monday, requesting the Fayette County Swift Water and Vertical Rope teams to activate and assist with response to eastern Kanawha County, specifically the Slaughter Creek area. Specially trained firefighters from Ansted, Oak Hill, Fayetteville and Montgomery’s fire departments who are on those teams all responded to the call.
Gray says the Fayette County Swift Water and Vertical Rope teams reached the Slaughter Creek area and found that due to the swift conditions of the floodwaters, it would not be safe to take boats up the roadway to reach and evacuate residents. According to Gray, the Little Creek Road area was the most difficult due to how quickly and roughly the waters were rushing.
Because of this, Gray says the teams opted for a much safer alternative called a “ladder approach” to reach the community. She says this involves putting down a ladder for responders to cross without going into the raging waters. Once the teams were safely across, they checked on all of the residents to determine if anyone was in need of assistance and determine who needed evacuated and who would be safe sheltering in their homes.
According to Gray, the groups then set up a “tensioned diagonal high line” to help residents who needed or wanted to evacuate out of the area. She says the high line serves as a versatile and safe way to evacuate multiple people, while allowing first responders to keep the residents out of the water. Gray said the high line tactic played a major role in the success of getting the residents to safety.
Gray tells WOWK 13 News that the teams recorded a total of 17 people leaving. Five used trails in the area to get out of the community, while the other 12 used the high line system. First responders say those 12 residents included a non-verbal child, a child who has autism, and a one-week-old baby girl.
Gray says while the teams were glad they were able to help the citizens of eastern Kanawha County, the sight of the flooding was difficult to see.
“Our hearts go out to the citizens, because that was very difficult,” Gray said. “Yesterday was just a tragedy.”
Despite the major damage to roads and homes throughout the communities, officials say as of Tuesday, there have been no injuries or fatalities due to the flooding.
Once the teams had finished their assignment in Slaughter Creek, they were called back to the command center first responders had set up in eastern Kanawha County. Gray says by that time, the floodwaters in the area were starting to subside, and the teams returned to Fayette County.