Friday, September 17, Weirton, WV -- The day began just like any other day. By nightfall, many would consider themselves lucky to be alive. As the remnants of Hurricane IVAN began dumping rain on the Ohio Valley around 5:00 AM, IVAN seemed to gain strength and produced more rain than this little valley could handle. By noon, the nightmare began.
Around 12:00 PM, water from Harmon and Kings Creeks in Weirton had begun to rise out of its banks. City Fire Department personnel received numerous reports of residential flooding and requests for pumps.
By 2:00 PM the City of Weirton Volunteer Division and the River/Swift Water Rescue Team was put on stand-by under the command of Lieutenant Mike Mudrick. As heavy rain continued, reports of mudslides on US Route 22 began to pour in. Initial reports indicated that a school bus with children had been hit by the slide and occupants were trapped. First in units advised that there were no vehicles involved and no injuries but the East Bound lane of Route 22 was blocked by debris.
Main Street residents of Freedom Place 1 and 2 (an elderly residential complex) called and reported that the parking lot and first floor level had begun to take on water from nearby Harmon Creek. Engine 4 Lieutenant Jeff Bertha who responded to the Freedom Place complex, requested that both buildings be evacuated. Buses from the City of Weirton Transit Company were dispatched and evacuated residents to the Thomas E. Milsop Community Center. The Center was eventually turned into a staging area for displaced residents and a command post. By 3:00 PM numerous vehicles parked at the Freedom Place Complex were completely submerged by the water.
Weirton Engine 2 under the command of Lieutenant Jerry Shumate requested the River/Swift Water Rescue Team respond to the Culler Road/Country Club portion of the city to assist in evacuating trapped residents. The team arrived at around 3:20 PM and three residents were rescued before the team received a priority request to respond to the 12th Street/Kings Creek Road area. Several residents were trapped inside their homes. One family of three reported that their residence had partially collapsed and were in fear of being swept away from the current. Shumate and his crew stayed in the area of Country Club and assisted residents while they evacuated.
Weirton's River/Swift Water Rescue Team arrived in Kings Creek at 4:05 PM and were amazed at what they saw.
Many of the homes in the area and adjacent Green Tree Lane were under water. The creek which normally flows in a westerly direction had broke from its bank and was now flowing around 30 miles per hour towards occupied structures. Water rescue personnel began to survey the scene and formalize a rescue plan. The concern was that the current was too swift to make a head-on course to the trapped residents. Green Tree Lane appeared more calm and it was decided that the crew would attempt to rescue residents by boat insertion at Green Tree Lane and maneuver behind the homes on Kings Creek Road.
Lieutenant Mudrick and Firefighters Kevin Williams and Dan Masterantoni launched the boat and begun to float down Green Tree Lane. Due to a large amount of debris and outside obstacles, they could not get the boat behind the homes on Green Tree and cut a path to trapped residents on Kings Creek Road. The three crew members tied the boat off at the end of Green Tree and walked across the hillside towards the residence that had partially collapsed.