No doubt the recent devastating floods brought back some bad memories for many here in the Tug Valley area. Just like what happened in central West Virginia a few days ago, torrential rains fell in early April 1977 causing shocking flooding across southern West Virginia and adjacent southeastern Kentucky. The record flood occurred on the Tug and Levisa Forks of the Big Sandy River.
The 1977 flood of the Tug Fork overwhelmed our region as the river crested to more than 53 feet. If you go down river toward Kermit, Nolan, Naugatuck and Crum, the height was even higher.
It was later called a “100 year flood” by the Army Corps of Engineers, an event that should only happen once every 100 years.
Fortunately, no lives were lost in the historic 1977 flood. Just a few years later in 1984, the Tug Fork swelled its banks again to a crest of 45 feet, once again destroying homes and upending families.
The communities of Matewan, Williamson, South Williamson, Kermit and every little community in between saw their towns wiped out. Many of us can recall shoveling slimy black and brown mud for weeks. Utilities that we take for granted such as electricity, water, natural gas and our highway and bridge systems were cutoff to some for weeks.
The Mingo, Pike and Martin County areas saw damages into the millions of dollars. Much like the recent flash flooding in Kanawha, Clay and Greenbrier Counties – homes were washed off their foundations and floated downstream.
Many homes and businesses were totally destroyed and people were dislocated for months. Several families spent time in small HUD campers and single wide trailers. It took years for things to get back to normal. Federal and state officials soon came in to help and what they saw was unfathomable.
People in this area know all too well how flooding can change lives. We have also experienced numerous flash floods the past few years in many hollows that lie along creeks and streams.
It really brings back gloomy and forlorn memories when watching local TV news channels on the recent flooding. To see how our fellow West Virginians are suffering is heartbreaking.
But Mountaineers are resilient and will always bounce back. We are strong, and despite these types of disasters, we pull together and build back.
Stay strong West Virginia !
Historic Crests of the Tug River Floods:
1977 – 53’
1984 – 45’
1963 – 44’
1957 – 43’
2002 – 42’
1875 – 42’
2009 – 41’
1967 – 41’
1918 – 38’
(Editor’s Note: I rounded these figures out to the nearest foot.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)