Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rural residents in California, West Virginia trying to recover from disastrous floods, fires

Rural residents in California and West Virginia are trying to recover from disasters that have decimated local communities, and reporters in rural areas are chasing many stories. Wildfires ravaged Southern California, causing extensive damage in some towns. While droughts have plagued the West, too much water was the problem in West Virginia, where flooding wrecked havoc.

The 1,212 residents of Clendenin, W.Va., "were finally able to emerge from their homes on Saturday, following the Thursday and Friday floods that ravaged the area, destroying homes, washing out roads and killing at least 24 across the state," Jake Jarvis reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "With all of the roads finally opened, people there started to clean up." (Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens: Clendenin)

"All the water had sunk back into the Elk River, leaving behind a slick mud that still covered most of the town," Jarvis writes. "Tires spun as cars and trucks tried to drive over it; rain boots slid as they tried to walk through it. Neighbors waded through the mud, piled ankle deep in some places, to visit their friends and family and help them start to recover from the flood."

"You would be hard pressed to find a place in Clendenin that wasn't affected by the storm," Jarvis writes. "Houses high up in the hills were spared from the floods, but many of their driveways were washed away or covered by small mudslides from the torrential rain. People here say the rain came fast—too fast to react to it. They knew there was a flash flood warning, but that's not out of the ordinary for the town that hugs the Elk River. Occasional floods are commonplace."

In the Southern California town of Erksine, pop. 17,384, there have been two reported fatalities, 200 structures confirmed lost and 36,800 acres burned, Lois Henry reports for The Bakersfield Californian. In South Lake, a tightly packed community of mobile homes, "the fire chewed through them like Pez candies." (Californian photo by Felix Adamo: South Lake)

In South Lake, 45 miles northeast of Bakersfield, residents are frustrated that more wasn't done to save the community's 100 trailers and houses—all located within a square mile—that were destroyed, Ruben Vives, Brittny Mejia and Matt Hamilton report for the Los Angeles Times. "Convinced that protecting wealthier communities was the priority of first responders, angry South Lake residents pressed officials on Monday to explain at a community meeting why firefighters didn’t save more of the town."

South Lake resident Janice Ryan asked during a gathering at a makeshift evacuation center, "We don’t count because we’re poor? Why aren’t we as important as the next town? Why was South Lake bypassed?” Kern County Fire Department spokesman Anthony Romero responded from a bullhorn: “When you have heavy wind going at 40 to 50 mph, there’s not any fire department anywhere in the world that would be able to catch a fire going that fast. No one is less important here. Everybody is important. Unfortunately this fire was too big, too fast for us to get in front of.”

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