RAINELLE, W.Va. (AP) — When the torrential rains stopped in the tiny West Virginia town of Rainelle, the volunteers started showing up.
By Monday, a small food line at a shopping plaza had ballooned from a couple of hundred hot dogs and hamburgers to a feast for flood victims — everything from bananas to cupcakes to nachos — and more hot dogs. Behind the food line, a large room was filled halfway to the ceiling with bags of donated clothing.
As volunteers sorted the items, the extent of last Thursday’s deluge came into clearer focus: Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and at least 23 people were killed when up to 9 inches of rain fell in a short span, causing perhaps the worst flooding the state has seen in three decades. More than 400 people were living in shelters across the state.
“We haven’t stopped feeding people,” volunteer Kelsi Shawver said inside the Park Center shopping plaza. “I don’t even know that I’d call it volunteering. I’m just here to help.”
Some of the worst destruction was in Rainelle, a town of about 1,500 people surrounded by hills, the Meadow River and several tributaries. Founded by the Rainelle brothers, Thomas and John, and once home to the largest hardwood lumber mill in the world, the town’s motto is “A town built to carry on … building great things since 1906,” according to its website .