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West Virginia Community Stays Positive; Looks to Rebuild After Flood

by on July 14, 2016

(Story by Matthew Thompson)

The Magic Mart department store in Rainelle, W.Va., closed two years ago.

It was an anchor store in the Park Center Plaza. The store’s closing was an economic blow to the small Greenbrier County town.

But recently the doors have reopened and the shelves have been stocked with food, clothing, toys and housewares. In the aisles, dozens of people go up and down, rummaging to find what they need.

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Only this isn’t a resurrection of the Magic Mart – it’s a Red Cross distribution center for the more than 1,500 residents affected by catastrophic flooding that hit the area in June. The floods claimed 23 lives, displaced thousands and caused millions of dollars of damage in West Virginia.

In Rainelle, many businesses and homes are uninhabitable. Residents now rely on the old Magic Mart to help rebuild their lives.

In one area of the store, a Red Cross worker helped a young girl find toys to replace water-damaged ones. In another aisle, people picked up multiple bottles of bleach, mops and other cleaning supplies. Canned goods, dry goods, snacks and water line the shelves of another section to help people replenish their pantries.

On July 8, Appalachian Power volunteers set up outside the store and at a nearby church to serve hot dogs and hamburgers to residents, along with helping clean up houses and businesses in the town.

The effort was a personal one for employee Danny Windon. Although he now works out of the Beckley Service Center, Windon grew up four miles from Rainelle in nearby Charmco and members of his family still live in the area.

“I have two brothers and a sister who lost their homes in this flood,” Windon said.

Windon said one of his brothers resides in the home the family grew up in. Growing up, he said flooding was a common occurrence every other year, but nothing of the magnitude of the recent event.

“As a kid, it would flood, but never in our house,” Windon said. “But this time the water was at the ceilings. It was eight-feet deeper than it had ever been before.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Windon, who is a distribution line coordinator, worked in the area to restore power. He also volunteered his spare time to help clean up a region he calls home.

“The help we have received has just been overwhelming,” Windon said. “There have been so many people in this town helping out and it’s just been wonderful.”

On Main Street in Rainelle, residents and volunteers from churches and disaster relief organizations work to clean up after the floods.

A walk down Main Street is now more of an obstacle course than a stroll. Piles of debris litter the sidewalks outside businesses, most of which are closed due to flood damage.

In the window of a Maytag appliance store, the words “We Will Be Back!!” are written in green paint as a mantra to passersby that rebuilding is in the cards. The debris in front of a dentist’s office is stacked so high it nearly touches the façade’s awning.

Andrea Pendleton, known as “Mayor Andi” to the town’s residents, has been the head honcho for six years. Pendleton said the last few weeks have been “a drain.”

“I just care so much about these people,” Pendleton said. “I just keep on trying to do good things and help everybody out.”

Pendleton added the support the town has received has been “amazing.”

“It’s people helping people, and people in trouble helping other people,” Pendleton said. “We have had people from different states; different organizations and some people just came on their own to help out. They are all just doing a terrific job.”

Pendleton said she is also thankful for Appalachian Power’s response during and after the flooding.

“Appalachian Power Company is really, really special,” she said. “I really depend on them and they have the energy that this town needs right now.”

From → News From AEP

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