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One year later: Clendenin family still recovering one year after devastating flood

Joretta Gray and her family of seven have been living in a camper one year after a flood destroyed their Clendenin home. (WCHS/WVAH)

Joretta Gray and her family still live at the same address, but they are far from being home.

"Never did we think in the beginning that it was damaged beyond repair,” Gray said.

Their Clendenin home was destroyed in the flood last June that devastated several parts of the state. Since then, the family of seven, with three children under the age of 9, have been living in a camper.

"It just feels like it was yesterday,” Gray said.

When Gray opened the upstairs windows the morning of June 23, 2016, she was just grateful her home didn't collapse with her husband, children and grandchildren asleep on the top floor.

"It was just scary. We were praying that the boats would get here before the water came in,” Gray’s grandson, Dalton Myers, said.

Gray said she prayed all night long.

"I said, ‘Lord, I don't care what you do with me and Steve, save my babies,' ” she said.

The water rose 10 and a half feet on the outside of her house. Downstairs, 8 and a half feet of water covered what used to be her living room and her kitchen, where she and her family ate dinner together every night.

Now, mealtime is a bit different, usually outside, with everything cooked on the grill. With the routine down, the past year, to Gray, feels like one long day.

"It seems like every corner you turn, and it seems like things are looking up, it's another setback,” Gray said.

It was seven months after the flood when she finally received a call from the Greater Kanawha Long-term Recovery Committee, but it wasn't the call she had been hoping to receive.

"It was an apology that we had been overlooked. That's hard for me to fathom, still can't wrap my head around it,” Gray said.

With the help of a case worker from the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, also known as VOAD, Gray was finally able to secure the funding to rebuild. But her home is one of 236 homes in West Virginia waiting to be demolished.

"A lot of times I tell myself I’m going to feel differently once I don't have to look at it every day, for it to not be here as a constant reminder,” Gray said.

So, she waits a little longer, hoping for the phone call, to tell her when her home will be demolished.

"When it rains hard now, you can't hear the TV through the pounding of the rain. There are times that I want to lay down and go to sleep . . . but there's no way you can,” Gray said.

Each heavy rain takes her back to that day last summer.

"It’s a terrifying feeling. It feels like it's that same day over again,” Gray said.

Now she wonders how much longer the camper will last her family.

“Things have already stopped working,” Gray said.

The hot water tank and air conditioner are unreliable and sometimes break down for weeks at a time.

“Here we are, we're in June, and we're like 4 and a half months from winter coming right back at us,” Gray said.

When it gets colder, they will have to wear heavy layers to keep warm because the camper heat is not strong enough to keep the family comfortable.

"There's no way this thing will hold up another winter, staying in it,” Gray said.

Still, her grandchildren are coping the best they can. Having a home is what they miss most.

"Wrestling and that bed and pillow fighting,” is what Myers said he misses the most.

"The only thing that I miss is Dalton, living in here and me and him having fun,” Gray’s grandson, Jordan Gray, said.

Joretta Gray said she has received no word on when her home will be demolished, but she and her family plan to build a new home on the same property.


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