Bishop Offers Prayers and Support for Flood Victims

Scott McCloskey Photo/Courtesy of the Wheeling News-Register The 12th Street area of McMechen is pictured July 29. By Colleen Rowan WEST VIRGINIA—Flood waters rose once again in West Virginia, this time in the Northern Panhandle and North Central region where recovery efforts continue. Heavy rains fell upon both areas late July 28 and into the early morning hours of July 29 causing flash flooding and landslides which damaged homes and businesses. Ohio County was still recovering from flash flooding that occurred the week before on July 23. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency July 29 for Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in the Northern Panhandle as well as Marion, Monongalia, Harrison, Taylor and Tucker counties in the North Central region. The governor’s office reported that first responders from across the state, the National Guard and West Virginia Division of Highways personnel were on the scene in affected areas. In the aftermath of the flooding, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield offered his prayers and support for flood victims and for all those helping in recovery efforts. “It is all too often that the good people of West Virginia are confronted with the horrific effects of flooding, and we now see this again,” Bishop Bransfield said. “I am praying for the families and individuals who are suffering because of the floods and for those who are working so hard to help them through this terrible time. We ask God to help all those affected by the flooding and those reaching out to them. May God bless all of you.” Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo said that almost 4 inches of rain fell upon Ohio and Marshall counties July 28 and 29. McMechen was devasated by flash flooding that followed, and much of the town is caked with mud an debris. Vargo said the National Guard is set up in Ohio County and is working on recovery efforts in McMechen. Flood waters also ravaged the small town of Mannington in Marion County, where water rescues began around 1 a.m. July 29. In Ohio County the week before, Vargo said that 3 inches of rain fell in 36 minutes on the evening of July 23 causing severe flash flooding that led to two deaths. As flood waters rose, the car in which 24-year-old Michael Grow and 19-year-old Paige Gellner were travelling was swept into a creek. Grow died at the hospital a short time after being pulled from the creek. Gellner was missing for almost a week. At a press conference early July 29 as the recent flooding began, Vargo announced the discovery of Gellner’s body at the mouth of Big Wheeling Creek in the Ohio River. On July 30, the governor toured the flood affected areas. In a statement released the day of the flooding, Justice said: “I of all people know how terrible these situations can be after experiencing the tragedy of the flooding in West Virginia during June 2016. But West Virginians are strong people and in this time of need we will do everything we can to aid our neighbors. After the waters recede we will work with them to begin clean-up and start the recovery process from this horrible devastation. “I urge all West Virginians to join Cathy and I as we continue to pray for the safety and well-being of all of our citizens that have been impacted by this flooding,” he said. To aid in recovery efforts, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is working with Appalachian Outreach, Inc. to assist volunteers helping with flood recovery in Marshall County. Beginning Aug. 4, the organization will use the former Bishop Donahue Memorial High School building as its command center for volunteer efforts. Bishop Bransfield approved the use of the building so that volunteers will be able to eat and sleep at the facility while also using the building to store all of their supplies for the clean-up effort. “I am pleased to be able to offer Appalachian Outreach, Inc. free use of the facility for as long as they need,” Bishop Bransfield said, “in order to help with the clean-up effort. The city of McMechen was one of the hardest hit areas by the flash floods July 28. I hope this coordination will help speed the recovery for those residents who suffered extensive damage to their homes and property. All of those affected by the flooding in the region remain in my prayers and the prayers of the faithful across our Mountain State.” Several groups from around the state and country are scheduled to come to the area in the next few weeks. Appalachian Outreach Director Rose Hart said the building will be a perfect center to coordinate clean-up efforts. “We are extremely grateful to Bishop Bransfield for making this possible,” she said. “We would not have been able to bring these groups in to help if not for this generous gift. We are looking forward to helping as many people as possible in Marshall County.” Catholic Charities West Virginia’s (CCWVa) Disaster Services in Charleston is also helping with recovery efforts through its participation in the West Virginia–Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster–(WV VOAD) situation and response coordination calls.  “These calls are critical to coordinating response activities of partner organizations and county emergency management,” said Patti Phillips, director of Development and Marketing for CCWVa. CCWVa Director of Disaster Services Lora Pierce was gathering information about local resources and volunteer teams and disseminating that information to parishes for referrals for those with unmet needs throughout the communities impacted by the floods. In addition, Phillips said that CCWVa is staying abreast of the status of recovery assistance for flood victims and will offer the “knowledge, experience and expertise” of its staff, in conjunction with partner agencies, to help those in need get back to full recovery. Those who were affected by the floods and in need of assistance or those who would like to help, should contact Pierce at (304) 559-1025 or by e-mail to To volunteer with Appalachian Outreach, call (304) 845-2762.