Valley water rescue teams return from 'once in a lifetime' WVa. flooding

Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 6:15 PM EDT
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Communities across West Virginia continue to pick up the pieces after massive flooding. Many responders from the Shenandoah Valley who helped rescue them have returned home. They said the experience was unlike anything they have ever seen.

"It was an experience that I'll never forget: to see the amount of devastation and just the overwhelming sense of helplessness with those people," reflected Lt. Joe Weaver of the Harrisonburg Fire Dept. who is one of the team leaders for the Virginia Division 2 Technical Rescue Team.

That team joined other teams to form 14 boat crews that worked tirelessly to save lives.

"I mean we train all the time for the worst case scenario, but I would say this was even worse than that," added Lt. Weaver.

Rescuing people from their porches and roofs as the water rose, crews working around the clock were challenged by the dark as well as swift, unfamiliar waters.

"We had really good crews that would be able to handle anything that we asked them, and they went above and beyond," added Lt. Doug Gooden, a technical rescue team leader for Rockingham County. "We never had a doubt they would perform at their best."

The crews performed between 70 and 80 rescues in fewer than 24 hours last Thursday to Friday. They said those rescues weren't easy, but their efforts were much appreciated by the people they helped.

"The people was extremely gracious that they was helping them, and couldn't stop thanking them enough," said Lt. Gooden.

Both Lt. Gooden and Lt. Weaver said last weekend was something they will never forget.

"It's really hard to put into words the amount of devastation that was in that area and it's hard to imagine... your home --finding out that that much water is in your home and your house, where you live-- the amount of devastation was hard to grasp," said Lt. Gooden.