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One year later: Clendenin family chooses to stay after losing everything in flood

Taylor Cole shares the emotional story of losing her childhood belongings after her parents' home flooded on June 23, 2016. (WCHS/WVAH)

About three months ago the Cole family was able to move back into their home of 20 years. The 1914 Victorian style house in Clendenin had six feet of water rushing inside the evening of June 23. Sherry Cole recalls it as a moment she will never forget.

"People have started saying, 'where were you on June 23rd?'" Sherry Cole said. "We had to wait on our upstairs level, and the water started rising up near the top of our stairs. I had this desperate feeling. I thought 'we only have another floor. We are already on the second floor. What if we are stuck up here and nobody knows we are here?''

Like many other families along the Elk River Sherry Cole and her husband Kelly were trapped for hours. They had to crawl out to their second story roof to get food from people who were working to rescue those in the most need. Cole said at one point people came to get their boat to help with water rescues near by.

"It was literally rising like bath water. I saw a camper float down the river and part of a house."

Currently their porch is used for the storage and construction for ongoing projects. A lot of the work has been done by Sherry's husband Kelly. The Cole family said it would not be possible to rebuild if it weren't for the work of their friends, family and countless volunteers who helped them on this year-long journey.

"It would be like at your house if someone came in with 12 truck loads of dirt and dumped it," Kelly Cole said. "Then you have to start over cleaning everything."

Their daughter Taylor admits at first, she thought about convincing her parents to move closer to Charleston. When the road finally reopened she was able to come see the damage that had been done to her childhood home. Some homes in the area have not been touched since the flood one year ago.

"Clendenin is kind of far out," Taylor Cole said. "I was excited to try and get them to move. In Charleston they would be closer to everything. Then, when I thought about going home, I thought, 'this is my home. I don't want to go anywhere else.'"

The Cole family got to work on their corner home in downtown Clendenin. They gutted everything out of the 103-year-old house until it was down to the studs. Many late nights and weekends are still spent working. They tell Eyewitness News the work is far from over.

"We took our money out of our retirement," Sherry said. "We used what money we could. This would not have been possible without the help of family and friends."


Room by room their house is starting to look like a home again. They are not finished with the work, but the home is livable. They hope to build back their home better than it was before the flood.

"We are resilient," Kelly said. "It's been trying, but this town will come back. It will be a better place."

They knew the choice to rebuild would not be easy. However, they said this disaster has brought their family together.


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