Eric Douglas: A big sign Elk River area is getting back on its feet
A few days ago, I drove to the grocery store.
Living in Pinch, that’s a lot more problematic than it used to be. For more than a year now, we’ve been without access to the local Kroger, Kmart, a number of restaurants, a hotel, a couple gas stations and smaller shops. That means driving to Charleston for anything more than the basics. The extra miles in the car gave me a chance to think and reflect on where we’ve come over the last year.
On June 23, 2016, the floods that tore through Elkview and Clendenin destroyed the culvert that led to the ElK Crossings Mall. That’s common knowledge. Because of legal wrangling, the owners of the property dragged their feet when it came to restoring access to the shopping center.
Finally, we’re getting a real bridge to the shopping center, instead of the substandard culvert. It will be another month or two until everything is back to normal, but they began pouring concrete last week for the bridge deck. That brings us one step closer to getting back to where we want to be.
As with any natural disaster, the outpouring of support at the beginning is nearly overwhelming. I remember driving by the various drop off spots at Elkview Middle School and other places along U.S. 119 and being blown away with everything people dropped off.
A friend from Virginia contacted me and asked what he could do. A week later, he made a six-hour drive to donate supplies in Greenbrier County. When he got home, he went to his local city council meeting and got others involved. A week after that, he made the drive again with another load. He told me when he saw the need on his first visit, he had no choice but to do it again.
Alex was just one of dozens, if not hundreds, of people who did the same thing. And that doesn’t even begin to address the people in Charleston and surrounding communities who gave their money, supplies, time and sweat to cleaning up and getting people back on their feet.
Believe it or not, there are still some people struggling and others have not gotten back into their homes, yet. That is also the inevitable nature of things. Other crises arise and our attention shifts elsewhere.
I could have written this on the anniversary of the flood, but there was already plenty of attention on the subject last month. I thought it made sense to wait a little longer and serve as another prod and reminder.
If you want to get a handle on what is still to be done, the Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee is still active. They have a page on Facebook where you can find out more.
Of course, getting the bridge done and getting the shopping center open will do a lot toward getting the community back together, too.
Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com