MULLENS, WV (WVNS) — Thursday, July 8, 2021 marks 20 years since flood waters ravaged parts of southern West Virginia. The city of Mullens was under water, and the effects are still being felt to this day.
Church pews were full the morning of July 8th, 2001, as rain pounded the region. It was relentless, and the river rose quickly. Members of Lewis Arnold’s congregation were sent home, but no one realized just how bad things would get.
“We were heading home and we got about halfway down the road, and the Red Cross called us and said would you stay there in case someone had to come, someone was in need of assistance. So my wife and I, we stayed here,” Arnold explained.
Arnold is the pastor of the Mullens Pentecostal Holiness church. The water broke the banks of the river and rushed into the church basement. The furnace, the kitchen, everything inside was ruined.
“I didn’t know if it was going to stop. I didn’t ever think there was a chance it would get that high,” Arnold said.
Butch McNeely was also in Mullens that Sunday. He barely escaped the rising water as it flowed into his State Farm office.
“I ran down here, it was one inch above coming down my sidewalk, and in 10 minutes it was four foot up my door, busted through my door, and knocked me all the way back to this window,” McNeely explained.
The water came up five feet in his office and covered everything. The City of Mullens was under water, making the clean up process long and difficult.
“I didn’t know if we’d ever see the end of it. The mud was over a foot deep and it was just absolutely, nasty mud,” Arnold said.
But this tragedy brought out the best in people; everyone in the community pitched in to help clean-up and rebuild.
“Later as you look back at it, you say my gosh how did we do that. But everyone came together. I liked that part,” McNeely said.
While some say the city of Mullens is still recovering from that devastating day, Arnold’s message to his congregation back then remains true 20 years later.
“The hope we had in the good times is the hope we have in the bad times. God will get us through it if we keep our head up and our eyes on the prize,” Arnold said.