Man, WV Buffalo Creek Flood Disaster, Feb 1972

Buffalo Creek Disaster.jpg Buffalo Creek Memorial at Kistler.gif Buffalo Creek Disaster former dam site.gif

FLOOD TOLL 60, CONFUSION REIGNS.

Man -- The number of deaths stood at 60 Sunday as cleanup operations entered their second day today in the Buffalo Creek area of Logan County.
Some 300 other residents were still reported missing in the wake of flash flooding caused by the collapse of a dam early Saturday.
An estimated 4,000 persons were left homeless, many with only clothes they had on when water leaped out of the banks of Buffalo Creek and rose to as much as 15 feet in some places.
Gov. MOORE, after touring the stricken area Sunday, said he plans to ask legislature for $1 million in relief funds for flood victims.
Officials on the scene agreed it would be nearly impossible to estimate in dollars the damage caused to houses, bridges, roadways and the railroad.
Confusion still reigns over the area although command posts were set up at various points in Man by National Guard personnel, state police, rescue squads, the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
More than 400 Guardsmen were mobilized to help in the grim search for victims. They brought tons of clothing, blankets and other necessary items.
The sheer volume of debris scattered throughout the dozen communities in the narrow valley and the lack of bridges have hampered search efforts. It will be more than a week before the piles of splintered homes and cars can be investigated for bodies, officials estimated.
As the water receded, state police Cpl. WALTER GARRETT, working his third day Sunday without sleep, said he felt most visible bodies have been recovered.
Heavy equipment, coupled with the noise of helicopters and planes flying overhead, made the valley ring with sound. With bulldozers and end loaders picking through the tangled masses of wreckage more bodies are expected to be found today.
Survivors were being housed in Lacoma Baptist Church, Man High School and other larger buildings in the area. A temporary morgue was established at South Main Elementary School.
Of the 60 bodies recovered only 10 positive identifications had been made, GARRETT said. Relatives and friends lined up to identify them.
More than 24 hours had passed since the 8:10 a.m. tragedy, but there were still questions as to how it happened.
After almost three days of heavy rain, an earthen dam holding back 15 to 18 acres of coal mine drainage water broke about 8 a.m. Saturday. The water, black with accumulated coal dust, poured into Buffalo Creek.
JOE WHITE, a private contractor, said he was at the dam only 15 minutes before it collapsed. "I don't know what happened. I am sure, though, that it didn't overflow."
Only the lower half of the valley was accessible to rescue workers by midday Sunday. Houses were splintered, trailer homes were ripped apart as if they were paper, and highway and railroad bridges were torn from their foundations and tossed about like toys.
Because of the early hour, many residents were caught sleeping. ELMER ARTHUR of Lundale, one of the hardest hit communities, said he was aroused from his bed when a neighbor pounded at his door and warned, "the dam has broken."
ARTHUR, and the five other members of his family, had to wade knee-deep water out of their house before scrambling up the mountainside.
The coal miner lost everything. He said he had been working for Amherst Coal Co. for 17 years and would probably try to re-establish his home at Lundale.
Before nightfall, scores of additional rescue volunteers streamed into the area with supplies. Milk was being delivered by a dairy company and many small stores opened their doors to the flood victims. Offers of help were coming from throughout the state.

FLOODWAATER JUST DESTROYER -- UNTIL I SAW THE BODIES.
Lundale -- The body of a man lay face down on a sand bar. Nearby was a black and tan hound, its head on its paws, apparently waiting for its master to wake up.
State policemen and civilian workers walked toward the body. The dog raised its head. The men continued to advance and the dog glanced at its master hesitantly.
For a moment, it appeared that the dog was going to defend the body. But then its relinquished its virgil with a weary wag of the tail.
The men wrapped the body in an old bedspread and carried it up the bank.
Not far away was another body, that of a young man. His arms were folded over his face as if he had tried to shield himself from the tons of cold water and debris that swept him away from his home.
I watched as the men gently carried the bodies that once wore new shoes, watched television and thought about how hard it is to earn a living.
It was a strange moment.
With fellow newsmen, I had hiked more than 10 of the 12 miles up Buffalo Creek hollow to the place where the community of Lundale had been.
I saw houses thrown together -- smashed and torn -- as if they were huddling side by side for comfort. I saw a pickup truck hanging in the substructure of a coal tipple, a toy put away on a shelf.
I met people who were traveling backinto the stricken area to see if they had any homes and possessions left. Their faces were blank. As they surveyed the extent of the damage, their minds comprehended the situation. But their hearts weren't feeling it yet. That would come later.
The water had moved a highway bridge near here. The bridge wasn't twisted or mangled. It simply was moved about 50 feet downstream from the place it was constructed.
At one spot there was an Ashland service station sign standing alone. There was no station.
A white dog came limping up to me at Stowe. Its left hind leg seemed to be broken. It twitched its nose inquisitively. I gave no indication that I noticed. I had no food, no pat on the head for a muddy canine puzzled because its home had disappeared. The dig sniffed a final time and limped on.
Here and there, I stumbled over tools in the mud. There was a hedgetrimmer someone had used to keep his property neat. I had no way of knowing if there would ever be another home, another hedge for the person who had used them. There is an emplty field now at Lundale where there had been dozens of houses and hundreds of residents. What's left of the homes has been swept to one side.
There was no question that the water which surged from the impoundment Saturday was a destroyer. But until I saw the bodies, it had seemed to be merely a destroyer of property.
Now I was seeing two people who had been destroyed by the flood. A man who never again would have the chance to be an adult.
I was seeing death -- cruel, unfair, death for no apparent purpose. It is something I never wish to see again.

Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1972-02-28

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FLOOD REMAINS SCRAPED AWAY; TOLL RISES TO 67.

Man (AP) -- The toll of known dead rose to 67 Monday as National Guardsmen used heavy equipment to scrape away the remains of 16 Appalachian coal camps in their march for additional victims of flooding that cut a swath through a narrow hollow.
Gov. MOORE announced Monday night 158 residents of Lorado, one of the Logan County communities destroyed by flood waters, have been found safe.
The 158 people apparently climbed over the mountains to safety in another nearby community, the Governor said. They were previously listed among those missing since Buffalo Creek flooded early Saturday morning.
Approximately 250 persons were still missing or unaccounted for, officials said.
Another 4,000 people were homeless, and there have been promises of quick federal and state aid for them.
The smell, of bodies permeated the muggy air as the first detailed search through the hollow revealed virtually total destruction. On hillsides above the ravaged areas, rescuers found knots of survivors huddled in the few remaining houses and buildings.
At Lundale, about half the way up the 17-mile hollow, Guardsmen operating bulldozers and end loaders carved a new path for Buffalo Creek, away from a heap of ruins, tons of splinters which once were houses and piles of scrap metal which once were cars.
Officials directing rescue operations said about 900 houses and as many cars and trucks were confirmed losses from the flood which roared down the hollow when a Buffalo Mining Co. earth and slate dam crumbled Saturday morning.
In the pile of debris at Lundale residents of the area predicted at least 15 bodies would be found. The Guardsmen spent most of the day directing the creek away from the mess before they could begin digging beneath it.
TOMMY MILLER, who works in a Buffalo mine, said he scrambled up a steep hill behind his home at Lorado after he received a call from his brother early Saturday morning predicting the dam would give. He said a "gang of people" joined him in the run for life.
They had been marooned since Saturday.
MILLER said he had heard talk for several years that the dam might give. Asked what the coal company had said of those reports, he said, "I'd be afraid to say."
Several stores along the length of the valley which were not destroyed were looted. An Island Creek Coal Co. store was hard hit by looters, officials said, although the said attempts to crack the store's safe which held $27,000 had failed.
The destruction was most complete farther up the hollow, with virtually nothing remaining in the final few miles to the point where the dam once stood.
The dam crumbled, unleasing a wave that has "left the worst destruction I've ever seen -- there is nothing left up there at all," said state police Cpl. W. M. GARRETT.
"I'm afraid to say how many more people we might find," GARRETT said. "We've found the ones visible on top. But most of the communities are in huge heaps of debris and we have no idea what might be under them."
Helicopters found 14 more injured persons Monday morning and flew them to a Man hospital. As of noon only five additional bodies had been confirmed as found, but a Guardsman at the scene said "there are plenty more."
Sen. JENNINGS RANDOLPH, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, toured the area and promised whatever aid "is necessary to rebuild."
Officials trying to accurately assess the former population of Buffalo Creek hollow believe it is likely that at least 2,600 homes were wiped out, affecting at least 4,000 people.
It was estimated that as many as 1,000 mobile homes would be needed, and some of these were beginning to arrive in the area.
A Guardsman, flying a helicopter into the area Monday, said dogs were found gnawing at bodies under the wreckage.
The Guardsman, who declined to be identified, said a 2 1/2 mile stretch at the head of the hollow which once had 37 houses now was completely barren, the top soil even removed to bedrock.
Officials of the Buffalo Mining Co. declined comment Monday on the dam's failure to hold referring all questions to their parent company, Clinchfield Coal Co.
An official of Clinchfield, ARTHUR BELTON, said from Dant, Va., he would be glad to answer questions, then proceeded to say he could not answer and question about the dam because he did not know much about it.
BOWERS noted that the legislation, if finally approved could re-[omitted in article]
"I flew over that area two weeks ago and I didn't even see the dam. I didn't know it existed," BELTON said. He said the company regretted the incident.
Three emergency medical crews were rushed in jeeps to one area of the hollow before noon Monday after five more injured persons were found.
"My God, please get somebody up there to help us," one woman said as she was carried into the hospital.
At a nearby high school, where food and clothing were distributed, a medical team spokesman said efforts were being made to provide typhoid vaccines to all the residents in the area.
GARRETT said efforts would be made to evacuate anyone left in Buffalo Creek hollow for the purposes of cataloging their immediate needs and checking their health.
"I don't know why anybody would want to stay up there," he said. "There is nothing there."

Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1972-02-28

The Listing of Fatalities from the Buffalo Creek Disaster.
From the Buffalo Creek Memorial at Kistler. Dedicated February 26, 1996
BROOKE MAE ADKINS, 31, Lundale, WV.
LONNIE LEE ADKINS, 7, Lundale, WV.
MARY JANE ADKINS, 5, Lundale, WV.
DAVID B. ADKINS, SR., 27, Lorado, WV.
DAVID B. ADKINS, JR., 4, Lorado, WV.
STEVEN ALBRIGHT, 17, Lorado, WV.
SYLVIA ALBRIGHT, 39, Lorado, WV.
JANICE BAILEY, 32, Saunders, WV.
KIMBERLY K. BAILEY, 6, Saunders, WV.
JASON BAILEY, JR., 11, Saunders, WV.
RHODA RENE BAILEY, 8, Saunders, WV.
CARLA J. BAILEY, 18 months, Saunders, WV.
JAMES BAILEY, JR., 16, Amherstdale, WV.
JOHN H. BAILEY, 58, Lundale, WV.
ELEANOR BAILEY, 44, Lundale, WV.
MILTON BAKER, 71, Lundale, WV.
EFFIE BAKER, 68, Lundale, WV.
JOYCE BARTRAM, 40, Lundale, WV.
BETTY LEE BLACK, 51, Lundale, WV.
EDITH BLANKENSHIP, 61, Lorado, WV.
REBECCA BROADY, 15, Lundale, WV.
DONNA SUE BROWNING, 21, Lundale, WV.
NORMAN B. BROWNING, 3, Lundale, WV.
JAMES BRUNTY, 82, Kistler, WV.
DESSIE BUTCHER, 57, Lundale, WV.
LEONARD BUTCHER, 66, Lundale, WV.
BALLARD CARTER, 36, Lundale, WV.
JANICE H. CARTER, 29, Lundale, WV.
MATTHEW CARTER, 6, Lundale, WV.
LILLIAN S. CARTER, 3, Lundale, WV.
MARGARET L. DAVIS, 35, Stowe, WV.
MARY JANE DAVIS, 8, Stowe, WV.
WILLIE DEMPSEY, 42, Lorado, WV.
ALETHA V. DEMPSEY, 38, Lorado, WV.
BERMA JO DICKERSON, 20, Lundale, WV.
STEVEN T. DICKERSON, 18 months, Lundale, WV.
JAMES DILLON, 32, Lorado, WV.
THELMA DILLON, 36, Lorado, WV.
CURTIS DILLON, 10, Lorado, WV.
SHARON DILLON, 13, Lorado, WV.
DARIA DILLON, 5, Lorado, WV.
HOWARD DILLON, 8, Lorado, WV.
RUTH ANN ELKINS, 29, Lundale, WV.
JUDY FERGUSON, 27, Lundale, WV.
CONNIE S. FERGUSON, 18 months, Lundale, WV.
MARTHA E. GUNNELLS, 21, Robinette, WV.
DAVID GUNNELLS, 3, Robinette, WV.
JESSIE GUNNELS, 1, Robinette, WV.
ETTA P. HATFIELD, 60, Lundale, WV.
LAYTON O. HATFIELD, 50, Lundale, WV.
RUTH B. HATFIELD, 53, Lundale, WV.
STEVEN HATFIELD, 16, Lundale, WV.
ALBERT O. HEDINGER, 34, Godby, WV.
ANGELA J. HOPSON, 2, Crites, WV.
MARGARET Y. JARRELL, 42, Lundale, WV.
KAREN JARRELL, 16, Lundale, WV.
PATRICK JARRELL, 24, Lundale, WV.
WILLIAM L. JARRELL, 50, Lundale, WV.
LOTTIE MAY JARRELL, 45, Lundale, WV.
ANDREW JOHNSTON, 73, Crites, WV.
GRACE KENNEDY, 71, Easley, SC.
GARY M. KING, 24, Lundale, WV.
SHARON A. LESTER, 25, Saunders, WV.
DENISE LESTER, 3, Saunders, WV.
NORMAN LESTER, 24, Saunders, WV.
DENNATTA LESTER, 5 to 7, Saunders, WV.
OPAL LESTER, 45, Saunders, WV.
BARRY K. LESTER, 15, Saunders, WV.
RITA J. LESTER, 16, Saunders, WV.
MARY B. MARCUM, 44, Latrobe, WV.
DIANA L. McCOY, 18, Amherstdale, WV.
KIMBERLY McCOY, 3, Amherstdale, WV.
JESSE MESSER, 35, Lorado, WV.
AUGUSTA MILLER, 69, Pardee, WV.
ROBERT MURRAY, 71, Lundale, WV.
WANDELL OSBORNE, SR., 37, Lundale, WV.
JEANETTE OSBORNE, 35, Lundale, WV.
REGINA OSBORNE, 12, Lundale, WV.
CAROLYN OSBORNE, 20 months, Lundale, WV.
GENEVA OSBORNE, 11, Lundale, WV.
WANDELL OSBORNE, JR., 15, Lundale, WV.
HENRIETTA OWENS, 22, Lundale, WV.
THOMAS OWENS, 3, Lundale, WV.
HERBERT PETERS, 71, Pardee, WV.
MARTHA PETERS, 71, Pardee, WV.
CALLIS PERRY, 81, Pardee, WV.
MARGIE M. PRINCE, 42, Amherstdale, WV.
MACIE QUEEN, 54, Lorado, WV.
OTIS RAMEY, 49, Latrobe, WV.
MATTIE RAMEY, 45, Latrobe, WV.
VIRGIE A. RAMEY, no age given, Latrobe, WV.
MARVEL R. SCARBERRY, 73, Lundale, WV.
GOLDIE SIPPLE, 38, Lorado, WV.
ANITA SMITH, about 17, Lundale, WV.
FLORENCIO SOSA, 65, Lorado, WV.
MARY M. SOSA, 46, Lorado, WV.
GLADYS STATON, 25, Lundale, WV.
KEVIN STATON, 1, Lundale, WV.
DELLA TRENT, 69, Saunders, WV.
JOHNNY TRENT, 32, Saunders, WV.
GENE TRENT, 26, Saunders, WV.
HENRY TRENT, 49, Saunders, WV.
WANDA TRENT, 39, Saunders, WV.
BETTY FRANCES VERNATTER, 4, Lorado, WV.
THOMAS VERNATTER, 65, Latrobe, WV.
ETHEL B. VERNATTER, 65, Latrobe, WV.
ROBY L. WAUGH, 45, Lundale, WV.
JAMES L. WAUGH, 11, Lundale, WV.
GRADY M. WAUGH, 18, Lundale, WV.
DONALD WAUGH, 20, Lundale, WV.
LARRY K. WAUCH, 5, Lundale, WV.
APRIL E. WHITE, 11, Lundale, WV.
DORA WILEY, 60, Latrobe, WV.
RICHARD WILEY, 78, Crites, WV.
FRANK LEE WORKMAN, 69, Lorado, WV.
Three Unidentified Babies.
Missing Never Found.
DORINDA L. ADKINS, 3 months, Lorado, WV.
SAMUEL CARTER, 20 months, Lundale, WV.
ROSCOE CLAY, 74, Lorado, WV.
JAMES N. DAVIS, 2, Stowe, WV.
NANCY HOPSON, 1, Crites, WV.
DONALD McCOY, JR., 18 months, Amherstdale, WV.
KATHY WAUGH, 8 months, Lundale, WV.