Ripley hit hard by rain
Homes, businesses, roads, church damaged by flash flooding
RIPLEY — Rains on Wednesday night caused a flash flood that washed away the gravel in the parking lot at the Ripley Pentecostals’ church on Clay Lick Road and left a little water in the new building, on which renovations were completed about two months ago.
Senior Pastor Frank Bounds had the carpet cleaned and $2,000 worth of rock and gravel replaced by Thursday evening, when a second deluge arrived.
“Eight o’clock it started; 9 o’clock (the water) was four-and-a-half-foot deep in the church,” he said.
The water overwhelmed a culvert near the West Virginia Division of Highways garage and swept across the road, Bounds said.
“It knocked the front door off its hinges and came in with such a rage, it washed all the seats up on the altar,” he said. “It destroyed our PA system; everything was underwater.”
The flooding damaged houses, businesses and roads in and around Ripley, said Walter Smittle, director of the Jackson County Office of Emergency Services.
“We received a little over 3 inches of rain in 45 minutes,” he said. “Water came up; half hour to 45 minutes later, the water had started going down.
“We took care of the people the best we could,” Smittle said. “No injuries; no deaths. Just property damage.”
“The good Lord was watching over us,” said Ripley Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Gobble II.
Gobble said his department and firefighters from around the county rescued a total of 10 individuals trapped by the quickly rising waters.
Four teenagers were trapped in a vehicle on Clay Lick Road, Gobble said. They were taken individually by boat to a nearby residence until the waters receded.
Some folks needed help evacuating from their houses, Gobble said. In other circumstances, firefighters would have helped them move furniture out, but with so much happening so quickly, “there’s no way we could’ve done it last night,” he said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.”
Multiple businesses in downtown Ripley were inundated, Smittle said, including Pam Bailey’s School of Dance at 114 Church St. South.
“We just renovated the studio last year, put thousands of dollars into it,” said Bailey, who’s been teaching dance for 55 years.
Her students are preparing for their recital and have been practicing lately at the Ripley High School auditorium. What has Bailey most concerned is the potential problems from water infiltrating beneath the dance floor itself and into the walls and insulation.
“The problem is with what you can’t see,” she said.
Still, Bailey wants to focus on the positives, like the people who came to her aid, including the parents of a former student. She admitted she likely would have turned them down had they asked if she needed help.
“They just came and immediately started working,” she said. “We live in such a me-me-me world but … there are people out there that are that kind of people.”
Gobble said law enforcement agencies, firefighters and other first responders worked well together during the emergency. In addition to those entities, “I had people calling me from Williamstown … all the way down to Pineville” offering to help, Gobble said.
State Division of Highways District 3 Engineer Justin Smith said high water washed asphalt loose at Jackson County 21 and U.S. 33 but the damage was expected to be repaired quickly.
“The storm was really localized,” he said in a release from the DOH. Several roads and culverts were damaged, “but nobody’s trapped and we don’t have any roads that are closed.”
Smittle said his office is still working to assess the full extent of the damage. He asked people to contact the office between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday so they can gather information to submit to the state for a possible disaster declaration.
They can call 304-373-2208 and ask for Kelli Skeens.
Bounds said $10,000 worth of seats and $8,700 of carpet were ruined in the church Thursday night. While insurance will cover some of the water damage, he said his granddaughter plans to set up a GoFundMe page to assist the church.
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.