Flood of Tears

IT’S HARD for some of us to fathom that, come Saturday, it has been 24 years since the killer flash floods roared down Wegee Creek, Pipe Creek, Cumberland Run and surrounding areas, taking the lives of 26 people.

A storm front stalled above the hills overlooking Shadyside that night. Before it left, it dropped five inches of rain into the gulleys high above the hills. What had been tiny creeks turned into pounding torrents.

By the time the water crested over the steepest hillsides, it had turned into walls of water. Countless tons of water pulverized everything in its path, splintering houses or lifting them up and sweeping them away. The walls of water were indiscriminate destroyers, sparing nothing in their paths.

Some of the homes were smashed to pieces when they crashed into the concrete bridges spanning the creeks. Cars and trucks raced by, carried by the deep, speeding water.

Horribly, people were also swept away by the water, fighting to swim but being smashed by the debris, drowning. Some managed to pull themselves to safety. Some were trapped and could do nothing. Others risked their lives to save family members, friends or people they had never met.

A few feet sometimes meant the difference between life and death, between a building left standing and one washed away. There was no rhyme or reason to any of this; there was only disaster.

As the night settled in, few people knew the extent of what had happened, how bad it actually was. As word got out, people in outside areas found it hard to believe. They didn’t think anything that bad could happen that fast.

Cleaning up and rebuilding following that devastation literally took years. Putting lives back together has taken even longer.

Marking the 24th anniversary of that tragic event will spawn painful memories for many. They should be in our prayers.