Was That Thunder?

What is it about Labor Day weekend that sends a nervous shiver down my spine? Why do I pay extra attention to the weather forecast? The answer is: water.

Just the hint of rain over the Labor Day holiday starts a quiet panic inside. The Ohio Valley, with it majestic hills and deep valleys, cannot seem to escape the water when it comes to hurricanes. And it has been the remnants of such storms that have wreaked havoc on us in the past.

If you are old enough to remember the early 1970s, when torrential rains fell here, pouring a wall of mud and water into a brand new Wheeling Hospital, well then you know what I’m talking about. That was over a Labor Day weekend. Bands of rain from a hurricane turned tropical storm visited us and left a path of destruction and death in its wake.

It was that same flood that reconfigured the landscape up and down the valley. It took lives and changed families. The 1970s flood left images in my head that I will never forget: a station wagon filled with a family driving on W.Va. 88 toward Oglebay, caught in the swirl of the raging Long Run … cars and trucks piled atop one another in Boggs Run … frightened patients being moved from a flooding hospital … tear-streaked faces.

Residents of Shadyside, Wegee Creek, Peters Run, McMechen, Hundred, Benwood, Wheeling, and the list goes on — they know the fear of which I speak.

Today it’s nearly impossible to imagine the depth and breadth of the floodwaters in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. The rainfall is being touted as “historic.” In other words, it’s never been this bad before. We are seeing images that will make the history books.

Here we only know of floods that come and go and allow us to start over. Creeks and river water are no strangers to our streets. Yet houses still stand. Cars are replaced. New hot water tanks and furnaces are purchased. Life goes on. It’s not easy, but somehow we rebuild, start over, renew.

Ask the folks in McMechen and Valley Grove and other areas most recently impacted by flash flooding. They will always be nervous at the forecast of possible storms.

But how do you rebuild entire towns when the people are left with nothing? Everything those Texans could not carry on their backs or in their vehicles is gone to a watery grave.

When the water finally does recede — which could take weeks — a whole new set of challenges will face the residents and the people who run the cities and counties. What do you do with that much debris? Where do all those people go?

Whether you help the neighbors in your own community or send help to Texas, remember first to look skyward — and pray for no more rain this weekend.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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