Sandy recovery: West Virginia community pulls together

World Vision’s regional warehouse in Philippi, West Virginia, plays a critical role in the local government’s response to the massive snowstorm. Nearly a month later, homes in some hard-to-reach areas remain without power.

By Chris Huber, World Vision U.S.
Published November 29, 2012 at 12:00am PST

As Superstorm Sandy churned inland from the Atlantic Ocean, it converged with two winter storm systems over the Appalachian region. More than 16,000 residents of rural Barbour County, West Virginia, were caught in the middle on October 29.

Snow traps families

At least five deaths in the area were linked to the storm, which blew down trees, knocked out power, dumped up to a few feet of snow, and rendered the people of Philippi, West Virginia, cold and in the dark for eight days.

Nearly a month later, homes in some hard-to-reach areas remain without power.

“It was pretty rough,” says Terry Wilfong, a Barbour County emergency management command staff member. “It took a week to two weeks to gain accessibility to [some] people.”

World Vision’s response

World Vision’s regional warehouse in Philippi played a critical role in the local government’s immediate response. The county water system was disabled when its pumps lost power, so Terry and his fellow emergency responders asked World Vision for help.

“[The warehouse] gives us a place to store stuff. We don’t have to chase it all over the county,” Terry says. “The community just loves ‘em [World Vision]. They’re just a huge asset. The location is fantastic.”

In the days and weeks after the storm, the warehouse served as the distribution hub for all water provided to families in need. In all, nearly nine semi-truck loads of bottled water came through the facility en route to homes, emergency shelters, and even the National Guard base for emergency response.

In addition, World Vision staff and volunteers distributed 148 cases of paper products, kitchen utensils, cleaning products, blankets, and hand sanitizer to families in and around Philippi.

In the first week, the organization distributed about 150 food kits, too — enough to feed more than 200 people for three days.

“[The storm] being right here at home was pretty unique for us, because [local residents] know who World Vision is,” says Dave Leach, World Vision’s warehouse manager. Products came off the shelves with only flashlights to see. Still, Dave says, “They were just absolutely gone quick.”

Community pulls together

Many residents were trapped in their homes by tree-blocked roads. Albert Everson, 48, was one of them. Armed with a pickup truck and a chain saw, on October 30, he and his son cut their way nearly three miles from their house to the main road, Route 250.

Sensing the urgent need of his neighbors, Albert spent the next week with World Vision, driving house to house and cutting away fallen trees in the snow to deliver loads of water to families cut off by the storm.

“I took it upon myself to take [water] to neighbors. Without power, their wells won’t work,” says Albert, who was born and raised in Barbour County. “They know I do about anything. It’s just habit. It’s just something I do, if I knew there was someone who needed help.”

Lack of power caused all sorts of communications and logistics problems, Dave says. But relying on people like Albert made things flow more smoothly for World Vision and government authorities.

“The community sticks together,” Terry concludes. “When something like this happens, they all pull together.”

A mulit-state disaster response

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, World Vision is focused on providing assistance to communities in New York, New Jersey, and Kentucky, as well as West Virginia. We continue to assess needs and provide cold-weather clothing, blankets, food, and other supplies to children and families struggling to stay warm.

A key part of our response is partnering with churches and other faith-based organizations already working among the poorest populations in affected areas.

We anticipate that relief and recovery operations in devastated communities will continue for up to three years. Our teams are preparing a long-term disaster response, targeting families that need assistance rebuilding their homes.

World Vision will supply building products, such as insulation, siding, and roofing materials to repair homes and community buildings.

Learn more

Read more about our multi-state response to Superstorm Sandy.

Two ways you can help

Pray for the survivors of Superstorm Sandy. Pray for safety and warmth for those affected by this devastating storm, as well as World Vision’s teams and members of other organizations serving affected communities as long-term recovery efforts begin.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help us respond quickly and effectively to emergencies that take place right here in the United States. Our warehouses are strategically located across the country to deploy relief items and assistance to areas where disasters occur.