Gov. Tomblin says it will take time for W.Va. residents 'to get their lives back together'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) - After touring flood damage in Rainelle in Greenbrier County and Clendenin in Kanawha County, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said it will take an extended period for the Mountain State to recover.
"When you see the devastation ... this is going to take some time for people to get their lives back together," the governor said Monday during a news conference in Clendenin.
Tomblin said one of his chief concerns in the recovery process is the state of the economy and the high unemployment rate. He said helping small businesses get back on their feet will be very important and that money will have to be spent very wisely during the recovery process.
When asked about how much he thinks the Rainy Day Fund -- the subject of a tug-of-war with the legislature during the recent budget process -- could be tapped, the governor declined to provide a figure but simply said: "Thank God we have a Rainy Day Fund."
Tomlin and a representative from FEMA, Albie Lewis, both stressed the importance of flood victims documenting damage and registering with the federal agency. The governor said people should be eligible since President Barack Obama approved his declaration making federal assistance available. Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties are eligible.
Lewis, a federal liaison for FEMA, said the agency hopes to have a disaster relief center open by Wednesday and is looking at a couple of facilities. He said FEMA already has sent commodities, food and supplies for flood relief.
Tomblin thanked first responders for their efforts. He mentioned state police troopers who, in one instance, rescued an elderly woman who had water up to her neck.
"Everyone is out there putting their lives at risk," he said.
Many different agencies, including county commissions and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, have stepped up efforts to help flood victims. Support has been coming in from all directions.
"It's not only people from West Virginia helping West Virginians, it's people around the country helping West Virginians," Tomblin said.
Meanwhile, about 500 members of the West Virginia National Guard are helping with search-and-rescue and flood recovery efforts. The number of National Guard members activated likely will be boosted to 700 and should remain at the several-hundred level over the next few weeks.