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Red Cross workers fan out to make flood assessments

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Thomas and Frances Rinehart were thankful Wednesday for all the help they have received from family members and the American Red Cross after last weekend's flooding destroyed much of their basement and left their back yard a mess of mud and unwanted junk.

"The main thing now is cleanup," Thomas Rinehart said as he surveyed his ruined front yard and mud-covered steps and walkway.

Red Cross workers, using a large Emergency Response Vehicle to haul items like cleaning kits, food and other sundries, brought supplies to the Rineharts' home on Riverside Drive on Wednesday afternoon.

"We come around first to do assessments of the damage," said Jim Minutelli, director of the Harrison County Chapter of the Red Cross. "Then we come back later, like today, when we open actual cases."

The Rineharts were the only family on Riverside Drive who had a case file opened by the Red Cross, Minutelli said. The others received aid and clean-up kits, but Red Cross officials determined that the Rineharts needed a little more help than that.

"Mostly what we saw was flooded basements, damaged furnaces, things like that," he said. "Overall, the damage has not been as bad as we originally thought on Sunday."

Statewide, the Red Cross has identified about 400 homes in 22 counties that were affected by the flood waters, said Chris Dale, public information officer for the flood relief project. As of Tuesday, about 85 percent of the organization's damage assessment had been completed, he said. Of the homes affected, 11 were destroyed, 105 were classified as having major damage and another 232 received minor damage.

"We're really seeing more of what we call minor damage," Dale said. "Of course, the term is pretty relative. If it's my basement that's flooded, I probably wouldn't consider that minor.

"We expect the number of homes affected to go up over the next couple of days as more people report damage and we go through the communities that we have identified as being affected," he said.

While the Red Cross and residents are fully into the cleanup and recovery phase, Dale said the aid effort was difficult to complete because of the way the flooding occurred.

"It was very localized flooding in these areas, what they call flash-flooding," he said. "The water came up and then receded very quickly. It's really challenged us to make sure we get everyone the help they need.

"With really major flooding, you can just look down and see who's been affected," he said. "With this type of flooding, we have to work harder to be sure that we identify everyone who was affected and make sure we get the services to the people who need them."

Because the flash-flooding made the overall damage assessment difficult, Dale said Red Cross workers are actually going door-to-door in each area they have identified and asking people how much they were affected by the flood waters.

As the cleanup efforts continued in Clarksburg and around the area Wednesday, Thomas Rinehart said there was one major change he and his wife planned to make for their home that they just purchased in September.

"I know we'll never keep anything in the basement anymore, that's for sure," he said.

The American Red Cross moved its disaster headquarters for the recent flooding in West Virginia from Charleston to Anmoore on Tuesday.

Workers arrived from Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Red Cross officials said Harrison County is more centrally located among the 19 counties hit hard by last weekend's floods.

Plus, property damage was extensive among several North Central counties.

"Out of all the affected counties, we identified the ones up in this area as the most affected," said Ward Johnson, director of the headquarters.

Before the agency closes the Anmoore headquarters, probably within three weeks, "we will contact, either by phone or personally, every family that has a destroyed or major damaged home," Johnson said. He added that the Red Cross would not guarantee a visit to homes it considered to have suffered minor damage.

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