OCEANA, WV (WVNS) — 59News continues to look back on the 2001 floods that devastated parts of southern West Virginia.
It started as a normal Sunday morning for Renea Stewart and her husband Pete. They were in church when they got word the creek was high and places were starting to flood.
“I’ve never seen it like that. Truthfully, you didn’t know what to do or where to go. We picked up our dogs, our kids,” Stewart said.
Renea lived right next to her sister, Sebrina Childers, in Oceana, Wyoming County. They were able to get their families to higher ground as the water rushed through their homes. They sat in their cars at the old Citgo gas station and waited through the night to find out just how badly their homes were hit.
“We all stayed and stuck it out and saw what we could salvage. Nothing was salvageable. Everything was gone,” Renea explained.
Sebrina’s house was also destroyed. Mud covered everything she owned; all her family’s special memories were gone.
“You can replace furniture; you can replace clothing. But the T-shirts they come home from the hospital in, the baby book, the teeth, locks of hair…you can’t get that back,” Sebrenia said.
The clean up process for both Renea and Sebrenia was long and frustrating. They both decided to rebuild in the same place, but it took months.
“You didn’t sleep. I woke up a few times and he would be sitting up in the bed and I said what’s the matter and he said I worked all of those years and everything wiped away in three hours. Wiped away,” Renea said.
Sebrenia had paid off her home just months before.
“You can’t believe they were tearing down something you worked so hard to pay off. I had just paid it off in March, my home off in March,” Sebrenia said.
This flood changed their lives forever. Heavy rain still takes them right back to that day.
“When it rains, and rains hard, even though we know it’s not going to get into our home, we still have a tendency to look out the window to see where the water is at,” Sebrenia said.
Twenty years later, they are grateful to be in new homes and surrounded by their family, but they will never forget the terror of that day.
“We’re fine, but the memories are always there. We can look at pictures and think oh my goodness, look what we lived through. It was bad,” Renea said.
“Everything is just gone in a second and there is nothing you can do about it. Just luckily we got everybody out alive,” Sebrenia said.