Red Cross Journal Notes: LOGAN COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA FLOODS 6/12/10


Subject: Red Cross Journal Notes, DR 112-10, Logan Co WVA

6/28/10 We are presently in the midst of a flash flood warning covering the entire flood area; I am working this deployment, in Client Case Work Services. Last month, in the Mississippi tornado, & then Memphis flood/tornado deployments, I was in Health Services as an EMT; this time I am a case worker, which is just “old school” social work. I love it, & it is one of my favorite red cross Functions; as a retired 38 year social worker, this helps fill the void I miss from my working yrs:  Day 8 of deployment, in Logan Co, West Va., serving residents in Shamrock, Cora, & Holden. I don’t even know where to begin……it has been one of the longest of weeks, with hours spent on the road each day. We initially were not able to live near the Client Casework HQ in Logan, WVA, consequently, we not only spent approx 3 hrs a day driving back & forth to our housing @ a very austere Motel 6 in Charleston, we then spent hours on the road going from hollar to hollar, to dismal coal mining camp towns, with most homes in terrible disrepair, trying to find residents of homes either destroyed, or with significant major damage & uninhabitable. Occasionally we find people living in filthy, mold ridden, damp homes, because they lost their vehicles in the flood & couldn’t go anywhere for services. Some homes have been cut off from society because their bridges washed away. Wonderfully resilient, proud, resourceful, very poor people, with few local social service agencies assisting, except for the local Churches of God & Catholic Charities. WVA is one of the Meth capitals of the country, & the physical, gross deterioration identifies some we serve; use is obvious. Frequently we are in rural areas with high crime rates, with meth labs in the neighborhoods, however the people treat us well. We are always cautious, locking our vehicles, & gear, but really not fearful. Gavin DeBecker wrote the “Gift of Fear”, fantastic primer, which trains you to be vigilant & aware. I always heed his advice.  We always pair newbies, who might tremble inside, with experienced teams. 99 44/100 % of the community residents have been very friendly to us. I have rented a large Ford Explorer (red cross rental), that is now covered in mud, inside & out; recently  noticed that the front windshield is cracked, which might cause a bit of commotion with Transportation. I feel like I am in a small tank, & after a wk w/ it, think I could turn around in a tight space w/ ease, on a dime; I’ve been driving in places I never would have dared to go before (isn’t that part of the original Star Trek intro?); its fun allowing myself permission (out of necessity) to drive over curbs, park on sidewalks, through fields, up steep hills, mountain dirt roads, etc. I’ve even learned to use mirrors. Yes Virginia, I have never learned to use mirrors properly; I sure do now. Scared myself though the other day, with driving up the steepest mountain incline I’ve ever attempted to navigate before, trying to reach a potential client; it was scariest driving back down; gravel & mud, no shoulder, one lane. If I’d had to back up, I don’t think even w/ 4-wheel drive that I’d been able to. Cell phones don’t work, & I hope someone is going to get us Satellite phones soon. We shouldn’t go out into the field w/o a means of emergency communication. Personally, I think it is a Risk Management issue, but I am not King of the World; I am a small cog in a gigantic wheel. However, it is dangerous for us to be navigating mountain, flooded terrain, going to the “last holler on the left”, w/o emergency communication ability. Our personal & Red Cross phones don’t work. I did have two additional scares when an idiot almost ran me off the interstate Friday, when I was going 70 (speed limit on WVA interstates), & if I hadn’t paid attention, I’d have ended off the side of a very steep mtn., and Ruth & I probably wouldn’t have been found until next spring’s thaw. Sat., as I was pulling over to park the SUV, to assess damages @ a home, a teenager decided @ the same time as I was parking, to fly around the corner behind me, & passed me on the right shoulder just cranked up & flying, on an ATV; he came up to the exact place I was pulling over onto; again, if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have probably badly injured or killed him. Scared my 76 year old partner who has been my roommate all wk, to death, (her hands finally stopped shaking).  ATVs rule the world here.  We now have been  moved (over the weekend) to Logan Co high school, where we are in a RC Staff Shelter, about 100 Client Casework, & Mass Care staff. I love Staff Shelters.  Not the Ritz, but very close to the HQ in Logan, saving us 3 hrs on the road ea day. Rush hour morning traffic is a bear when we have an 8 am meeting & we are so far away from the case work HQ.  The Staff Shelter Manager, S O, & his Ass’t Jerry, are wonderfully helpful, attentive, & are trying to make these living quarters a good fit for us. I’m sleeping on a cot (w/ an air mattress) w/ about 30 other gals (we are having the time of our lives & we are laughing MOST of the time) running around w/ flashlights; reminds me fondly of memories living in the dorms @ UMD & camping; the men are in a room next door.  My biggest problem is that I am NEWS & WEATHER INFO deprived; I haven’t had time to read a single paper, or watch news/weather on TV for 8 days. I am going through news withdrawal. Soon, FEMA will move into the front of the sch bldg. to set-up the local Disaster Recovery Center. I hope FEMA brings in portable showers & laundry services. Communal showers are such great fun :).  However, the convenience of close proximity to HQ is wonderful, giving us more time with clients, & more time to sleep. We are in the community from 8:30 am until 6, when we return to HQ to have the evening meeting for 1 1/2 hrs (you know us social work types, we have to process everything to death); 1st meeting @ 8 am sharp! A couple of days the heat index was 104¤; last few cooler. I desperately need clean clothes, so my mission now is to get laundry done.   Ah, life’s simple pleasures. It is 1 am, must go. I am OK, not too much bump & grind, happy, (actually I’m loving every minute of it), & I am off tomorrow. I am constantly reminded during my deployment travels of my DSHR, FEMA, Southern Baptist, & Salvation Army disaster partner friends, spread out all over the country who I miss so, & hope to run into them on the disaster recovery road; I so miss Linda B, Bob M, Ruby D, Shanda F, Jessica H, Lynn P, Charlie M, Debbie H, Cathy H, Henry N, John K, Chuck S, Sharon S, et al. I did receive a wonderful surprise, as a good red crosser friend, Tony C, is here. We love bumping into DSHR friends.  We are all One Red Cross.  Be Safe/Be Prepared.  susan


About tydingsfrushour

Retired social worker, EMT, Red Cross disaster responder. Disaster response, animal rescue, gardening, family, & writing, round out my life. Enjoy country life in the Shenandoah Valley & Blue Ridge mountains.
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