by Jennifer Biller
SALEM -- An aggressive thunderstorm dumped more than 2 inches of rain in 30 minutes on Salem Tuesday night, causing flooding for several business and home owners.
Salem volunteer firefighters rescued one man from his vehicle about 10:30 p.m. after he backed into a sinkhole of rising water.
"The hole had about 20 feet of water in it," said Salem Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rick Todd. "We had to secure his car with winch lines and put a life jacket on him before we could remove him."
Main Street in Salem was hit hardest.
The city building had about 6-8 inches of water and mud on the floor, said City Manager Ken Yost. City records were upstairs and were not damaged.
"We got hit hard," Yost said. "It came so quick, we didn't have a chance to do anything."
About 35-40 businesses and residents were flooded, Todd said. Several residences on Liberty Street, Cherry Avenue, Valley Street, Water Street and Terrace Street saw flooding too, he said.
Most of the places had 2 to 4 inches of water and mud in them, Todd said. And some mudslides occurred on Water Street, Todd said.
"There was a couple of feet of water running down Water Street when we got the first call," he said. "There's a flood control dam there, and we actually thought the dam had broken."
Van Horn Elementary had a few inches of water and mud inside. The school was closed Wednesday so personnel could thoroughly clean and disinfect the building, said Victor Gabriel, who oversees Harrison County Schools facilities.
The storm took the town by surprise. Many business owners arrived Wednesday morning to open their shops along Main Street, only to be greeted with thick mud and foul-smelling flood water.
"The nursery was full of mud. The toys were trashed," said Pastor Shawn Dahlheimer of the Salem Christian and Missionary Alliance Church on East Main Street. "It's probably about $2,000 of damage, with all the carpet and nursery items. We're having to disinfect the whole building now, but we will survive."
Dairy Mart Foods was closed as workers cleaned and mopped mud and water in the store.
The smell of pine cleaner replaced the smell of stale mud at Exclusive Cuts on Main Street as owner Cindy Ash and her crew mopped the floors.
"I opened the door, and it was nothing but mud this morning," Ash said. "We'll probably be closed the rest of the week."
Homeowner Keith Richards didn't realize the water was rising until he looked outside Tuesday about 9 p.m.
"There was just water everywhere. We've had water before, but not like this," he said. "We had about a foot of water under the house."
His 9-year-old daughter Megan Richards was scared when she couldn't see the front yard.
"The water was so deep they had to carry me to the vehicle," she said.
The North Central West Virginia Chapter of the American Red Cross was in Salem on Wednesday distributing cleanup kits and helping residents. The Salvation Army was also on hand providing assistance, food and water to those who needed it.
"It's not as bad as we were anticipating," said Carl Hardy, damage assessor technician for the American Red Cross. "A lot of local residents are scraping the mud out of their yards more than anything. Mostly what got affected is the business district."
Also, there was flooding reported along U.S. 19 near the Spelter bridge and a tree was down on Johnstown Road, according to reports from the Harrison County Bureau of Emergency Services.
A state emergency team was contacted to help with damage assessment, Yost said.
Today, there is a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms in the Salem area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Hunter Coleman. If Salem gets the storms, rainfall could accumulate to about an inch in an hour, he said.
Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at email@example.com.