West Virginia residents pull together after Sandy

By Chris Huber

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Members of the West Virginia National Guard work to clear the road to a remote emergency radio repeater site in Tucker after Superstorm Sandy

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, W. Va., were caught in the middle on Oct. 29.

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, W. Va., 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 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 needy families—in all, nearly nine semitruck-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."

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 Oct. 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.

Albert woke up to 10 inches of snow in his yard that first morning. Otherwise, he didn't mention how else his family was affected.

When it comes to serving neighbors affected by the storm, it's pretty straightforward. It's about "just helping people out," Albert says. "They know all they gotta' do is ask. I'll do about anything."

Barbour County's deep sense of community helped all parties involved in the storm response.

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


Deploying Supplies to disaster survivors

How Can You Help Now?

Pray for children, families, and communities affected by the recent hurricane. Pray that the damage would be minimal and that those impacted by the storm would find the help they require.

Make a one-time donation to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States, like Superstorm Sandy.