Bill signed to help West Virginians in future floods

A new bill signed to help West Virginians prepare and respond to flooding in the future. (WCHS/WVAH)

As we get closer to one year since the deadly floods, a bill to help West Virginians prepare and respond to flooding was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice.

The bill brings together several groups to work, year round, on a flood protection and response plan.

Lawmakers gathered in Clendenin Thursday. One of the many communities hit by the historic flooding on June 23rd, 2016, killing 23 people.

"All of us wish we could never face another flood like this but we need to be prepared because we know we can't control that," House Speaker Tim Armstead said.

Now legislators are making sure West Virginians are more prepared if a flood happens again, with a bill signed by Governor Jim Justice.

"We need to try to just do anything and everything we possibly can because we do live in the valleys in West Virginia and we are going to have flooding as an issue and so we need to do everything we can possibly do to come up with ideas to be able to prevent and then be able to react," Governor Justice said.

The bill, House Bill 2935, which has been in place for a decade, is now being acted on.

It will establish the State Resiliency Office, made up of representatives of agencies that respond to floods. It will include the National Guard, first responders, fire departments, Department of Highways and Homeland Security.

That group will report to a Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding, made up of 10 lawmakers from both chambers, ultimately coming up with a plan to try to prevent flooding and be ready to respond if it happens.

"Hopefully when we face these occurrences we can recover quickly and hopefully not have any loss of life or really devastation to property,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael said.

They will also work on a better warning system. Something Tony Matics, who has lived in Clendenin all his life and is the funeral director of Matics Funeral Home, wishes was in place when the floods hit.

"It would have been nice to know so we could have evacuated to higher ground instead of 2 o'clock in the morning grabbing my mom and dad saying ‘we got to go, we got to go now’ so that was a little bit frightening,” Matics said.

The Resiliency Office will report to the committee at least four times a year to discuss recommendations to improve flood planning, and then present ideas to the legislature every January.

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