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APCO Employee Marooned by Flood Waters for Close to 30 Hours; Rescued by Helicopter

by on June 30, 2016
This photo, captured by Kris Meyers, a utility forester for Appalachian Power, shows the Clendenin, W.Va. area June 24.  One day earlier, massive rains plagued the area causing the worst flooding in more than 100 years. It was around this area where employee Kevin Linhart was stuck for almost 30 hours before being rescued by helicopter.

(Story by Matthew Thompson)

CLENDENIN, W.Va. – On Thursday, June 23, at 3 p.m., Appalachian Power employee Kevin Linhart was investigating outages during heavy rain storms in the Clendenin area. Almost 30 hours later, he was rescued by a helicopter after being trapped by raging flood waters in the Kanawha County community.

“Marooned” might be a better description for Linhart’s ordeal.

“It was like being on an island,” Linhart, 41, said. “You had a hillside behind you, but there was flood water everywhere.”

Linhart, a line mechanic based out of North Charleston, W.Va., was headed down Route 4 after receiving a call asking him to investigate a report of a tree on a distribution line. When he arrived, he found the tree had fallen across the road, blocking traffic.

Linhart called the foreman on the radio to give an update and exited his vehicle. He began to explore the area to see if any repairs could be made.

In an instant, the hillside gave way, creating a landslide that initially trapped Linhart between it and his truck. As the rain eased up, he drove around to the other side of the slide and isolated a phase of the power line that was still energized.

Once that was complete, Linhart quickly realized he wasn’t going anywhere. The rising waters of the Elk River were engulfing the area and he rushed to higher ground.

“The storm came through so fast,” he said. “Before you knew it, you were stuck.”

Kevin Linhart has worked for Appalachian Power for eight years. After being rescued, Linhart said he went straight home to his wife and three children. After eight hours of rest, Linhart was back on the job, helping to restore power in the wake of massive flooding.

He proceeded to the higher ground of a nearby Save-A-Lot grocery store, where he joined others trapped by the high water.

The collection of about 30 individuals was mostly made up of people on their way home from work, Linhart said. Also mixed in were crews from tree-trimming company Asplundh, and Davis H. Elliot Electric, a company Appalachian contracts with for restoration work.

With the waters continuing to rise, Linhart made a call to his wife, Jessica, and his three children to let them know about the situation.

“I let them know I was safe,” he said. “But they didn’t have the visual of where I was located, so they were concerned – even though I was letting them know I was all right.”

As day turned into night, Linhart said the group began to settle in. They spent hours talking, as an effort to stay calm in the situation. People who lived on an adjacent hillside provided food and beverages, but Linhart wasn’t up for eating.

“The people who lived around there were real generous – firing up the grill and making hot dogs and hamburgers,” he said. “But I didn’t eat a whole lot. My stomach was all torn up just worrying about everything.”

The thought of being separated from their families with no control over getting home was too much for some people, he said.

“This one man lived just right across the river from where we were,” Linhart said. “He called his wife and there was eight feet of water in their house and she was stranded on the second floor. The power was out and her cell phone battery died. That man just started crying because he couldn’t get to her. It took everything he had to get through it.”

The next day, flood waters were still surrounding the area.

Kris Meyers, a utility forester for Appalachian Power, sprang into action. After hearing about crews being trapped in Clendenin, he worked with helicopter crews to help out.

“We knew Asplundh was going to fly a helicopter in the area, so we just piggy-backed off that idea and flew in with supplies, at first,” Meyers said.

With no clear path to land, the helicopters made a pass over early Friday afternoon, dropping off medicine, water, lunch meat, bread and condiments.

Linhart said the river was still rising throughout Friday. He had to keep moving his truck further and further back up the hillside to ensure it wouldn’t be lost.

Finally at 8 p.m. Friday night, Linhart and others were able to make it to higher ground at Cobb Station Road, located about a half-mile from the Save-A-Lot. With enough room to land, a helicopter arrived and took people to safety.

“The helicopter dropped us off at the Clendenin park-and-ride lot, where a shuttle van was parked ready to take us home,” Linhart said.

Once he arrived home, Linhart said he couldn’t wait to embrace his family.

“There was a bunch of hugging, “ he said.

After some rest, Linhart was back to work eight hours later. He said he was eager to help the community.

“This is my hometown,” Linhart said. “I know a lot of people around here and to see them struggling, it makes you want to help. It’s our job to get them power.”

From → News From AEP

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