1985 Flood Remembered in Parsons

Almost a hundred people came together on Thursday evening to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the devastating flood of 1985.  In spite of the great losses suffered in Parsons and nearby communities, the courage and kindness of neighbors stood out amidst all the fear and destruction of that fateful November night.

The ceremony began along the calm waters of Shaver's Fork with a welcome from Mayor Dorothy Judy.  Tucker County Commission President Lowell Moore described the flood and its aftermath—47 lives lost across the state, thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, and countless families displaced.  He also recounted the heroic recovery efforts of locals and strangers alike, from shoveling mud out of homes to donating supplies and equipment to raising money by selling cookies.  Former Sheriff Tom Felton read Cleta Long's moving poem "Thankful for a Fodder Shock," in which the poet remembers fleeing from the floodwaters as they overtook her home in Dry Fork to take refuge in a crude shelter in a field. 

 

Belva Dilly told the story of returning to her flooded home, where she found everything covered in mud—everything but one yellow rose, blooming in the garden in spite of it all.  Finally, Reverend Philip Dent of St. John's Church invited everyone to place a yellow rose of hope at the flood memorial.  Sally Purnell led the group in singing Amazing Grace as they crossed the bridge to the memorial.

Parsons flood memorial decorated with yellow roses of hope.  November 5, 2015.

The railroad bridge over Shaver's Fork.  November 5, 2015.

The railroad bridge over Shaver's Fork.  November 5, 2015.

After the ceremony, the crowd gathered at the Tucker County Courthouse, where photos, newspaper clippings, and video footage of the 1985 flood were on display, thanks to the Tucker County Historical Society and the Friends of the Cheat.

Many local residents shared personal stories from the flood.  Donna Carr told the story of her father, Don Goss, who used his boat to rescue victims from the raging waters.  Charles Lloyd, a firefighter at the time, recalled the sudden, unexpected nature of the flood and the efforts of emergency response personnel to save residents from the deluge.  Dorothy Carr, then a nurse at Tucker County Hospital, remembers the hospital staff working hard to care for patients without electricity as the ground floor filled with mud.  The powerful stories were too numerous to list here, but all drew attention to one thing: the amazing strength and resilience of this community.

PRO ON TRAC is honored to be a part of this community.  We are working hard to improve Parsons, and we could not do it without the wonderful people who call this valley home.  Thank you to everyone who attended the flood commemoration and shared your stories with us.