How prepared is West Virginia for the next natural disaster?

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CHARLESTON, WV( WOWK) — As Tennessee searches for missing people after receiving more than 17 inches of rainfall in Waverly, West Virginia is preparing for its next natural disaster.

The State Resiliency Office was created almost nine months ago.

“The resiliency goal will be to have trained operatives in each of these agencies who are trained in the resiliency plan, whereas when the 2016 flood happened nobody was trained on anything — no one knew HUD’s phone number,” said Senator Chandler Swope (R-Mercer).

Both federal agencies HUD and FEMA awarded the state more than $300 million in grants to fix flood-ravaged homes following the 2016 historic flood.

According to Swope, more than 700 homes had to be demolished.

“It took the National Guard almost a year to learn their way through the nightmare of regulations,” he said.

Swope, like others on the joint legislative Flooding Committee, is now a board member of the State Resiliency Office.

He says their first few meetings have been largely organizational.

The challenge now is to create a resiliency plan; a final document that has a communication strategy among the various state, federal and local agencies.

“I refuse to give anyone a projection on how long it’s going to take because it’s a brand new assignment it’s never been done before,” he said.

Still, there are those who say one thing that’s missing from their strategy is the role of climate change.

When asked, Swopes says it’s a “non-issue.”

He refers to the book “Unsettled” by physicist Steve Koonin which ultimately concludes that humans cannot have a measurable impact on climate change.

A 2020 article by the Ohio Valley Resource quotes scientist and WVU associate professor Nicolas Zerge who says “If we can’t even have conversations in Charleston about what climate change is, and that it’s happening, how can we have hazard mitigation designed in a way that meaningfully protects the public?”

The State Resiliency Office meets quarterly, their next meeting is in September.

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