When Amber Allman talks about the flooding that destroyed her home, it isn’t recalling how she and her three children escaped minutes ahead of the water that makes her tear up.
Rather, it’s thinking about those who lost their loved ones as flash flooding swept though some dozen counties throughout the state.
After being forced from her home in Elkview, she and her three children ended up at an American Red Cross shelter set up at Capital High School.
“It’s hard and it hurts, but I can replace things. I’m thankful my family is OK, but I don’t know what I would do if I lost one of my babies,” she said, brushing aside tears.
But, she quickly added, it all hasn’t been bad.
“It’s good that people are helping each other because in a situation like this, that’s about all you can do.”
Don Prelich, a Red Cross volunteer from Greensboro, NC, is overseeing the shelter operation. He sits on the floor listening to Amber recall her ordeal and playing with one of the children.
To him, part of the job of being a shelter manager is more than shuffling papers. It’s about getting to know those who are sleeping and eating at the shelter and understanding what they’ve been through as they start rebuilding their lives.
“I feel more rewarded when I can let them know that we care,” he said. “And it makes them feel better knowing that we really do care.”
Don is among some 400 Red Cross workers who came to West Virginia from around the country to help out. So far, the Red Cross has opened or supported seven shelters for those displaced by the flooding.
Amber tells Don how she and the children were home planning to watch getting ready to watch a movie when the rain started pounding on the windows. The rain stopped and they thought the worse was over.
But she said firefighters a few minutes later came through the mobile home park warning everyone to leave because more water was on its way.
“I had just enough time to grab a couple of bags of stuff and one of neighbors came running down the road yelling that we had to get out now because the water was coming our way,” she said.
She grabbed her children and headed to higher ground, but Molly the family puppy was left behind. Later, a friend told her that Molly had been found on the back of a sofa floating in the water filled living room.
“Thankfully she was smart enough to get up on the couch where she was safe. I feel bad she was scared but at least she was safe,” she said, adding the dog is staying with friend.