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WV Has 'One Chance' To Improve Flood Preparedness

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Monday, May 23, 2022   

The mayor of Huntington, where more than 200 homes were recently damaged by severe flooding, said now is the state's "one chance" to prevent other residents from experiencing the same tragedy.

Last week, leaders from across West Virginia gathered in Charleston to coordinate on a new state Flood Protection Plan. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams was there, and he later warned that flooding can wipe out everything people have worked for overnight.

"Right now, I have over 215 homes that have just been devastated," said Williams. "This is just ruining people's lives. They've lost everything. The effect on people's lives is not just palpable. It's real."

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice toured Huntington's flood damage earlier this month, just two days after declaring a State of Emergency for Huntington and other areas affected by flooding.

Projections say the state's mountains mean West Virginians can expect to be some of the hardest hit by climate driven natural disasters. Mayor Williams said the only solution is for West Virginia to work together.

"Local, county and municipal governments, but you don't leave out the people in the neighborhoods," said Williams. "Everybody plays a role in this. We have one chance to get this right now. Whether you believe in climate change or not, these things are happening more often than they've ever happened."

Robert Martin is the director of West Virginia's resiliency office. He said they expect to have an update to the state's 18-year-old flood plan by the end of the year.

But Martin stressed that West Virginians have to realize flooding is going to happen here, and be ready to take the steps to mitigate that reality.

"The topography of the state is such that you're always going to have rains," said Martin. "Rains seem to be a little bit more frequent than they used to be, or they're cells of heavy rains that occur. But, we'll do what we can to mitigate those, so that we all get some flooding, we know that, but it'd be at a much lesser level."

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.




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