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Governor observes first-hand the difference that flood preventi

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

PHILIPPI -- Gov. Cecil Underwood and officials from the state Office of Emergency Services continued to tour the state on Sunday to look over the communities that were damaged by flooding following torrential rains on Thursday and Friday.

They found good news in Philippi.

Both Philippi and Belington experienced flooding in 1996, when 26 homes and several businesses were damaged or destroyed by high waters.

Since that time, more than $1.6 million was spent on mitigation work in Barbour County to move homeowners and businesses out of high-risk areas. During the most recent rainfall, when the Tygart Valley River rose to higher levels than it did in 1996, only one house received water damage, according to National Guard officials.

Gov. Underwood said he toured the Philippi area to see how spending money in flood prevention had made a difference.

"Obviously, mitigation does work. The $1.6 million in federal funds that was spent was a good investment," said Gov. Cecil Underwood on Sunday afternoon at Philippi City Hall.

During Sunday's trip, Underwood said flood damage seemed to be sporadic throughout the state, but said the town of Glenville received some of the worst damage.

There were reportedly 55 businesses and 77 residences in Glenville that were affected by flooding, he said.

Underwood declared a state of emergency in 10 counties Saturday, including Cabell, Calhoun, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Monongalia, Preston, Roane, Tucker and Tyler counties. As many as 13 more could be added after flood damage is evaluated.

The declaration allows the National Guard to help clear roads, deliver emergency medication or assist where ambulances or other emergency vehicles cannot travel.

The American Red Cross had more than a dozen temporary shelters open for flood victims on Saturday, but all were closed by Sunday afternoon, according to Chris Dale, state public affairs officer for the American Red Cross.

Dale said the Red Cross served 350 meals so far and he expects that number to rise as more people come forward for help.

More than 200 comfort kits, containing basic hygiene products, have been distributed, along with 250 cleanup kits, made up of mops, brooms, buckets, sponges, disinfectants and other household products.

Red Cross teams were out on Sunday to help with preliminary damage assessments throughout the state. Teams from the Harrison County Chapter visited Salem, Shinnston, Wallace, West Milford and Clarksburg.

Karen Shuster, health and safety director for the local Red Cross chapter, said the teams found 157 homes affected in Harrison County, with only 12 of those homes sustaining major damage.

"From the onset of the rains, we knew there would be some serious problems, but we feel families were pretty lucky to only have a dozen homes with major damage," Shuster said.

Red Cross workers will continue their efforts today, many going door-to-door to find out the type of assistance families need, Shuster said.

"We'll be working to find out what the basic needs are and continuing to distribute the clean-up kits for the people who experienced flooding in their homes," she said.

Today's weather should help in the cleanup effort, with temperatures in the mid-40s and overnight temperatures in the 20s. Tuesday may have a chance of showers, but no significant rainfall will occur, according to the National Weather Service.

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