Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"We almost lost our lives that day."

Community members gather in Dorothy to remember the 2001 flood and get ready for Thursday's hearing on the Eagle 2 mountaintop removal mine.

Bobby, Sam and I met at Mike Maynor's house in Dorothy to have an informal meeting to prepare for this Thursday's hearing regarding the Eagle 2 surface mine permit. As we settled down comfortably into Mike and Lessie's hospitality to wait for other community members, the conversation turned to the current state of Stover cemetery. Family members believe that at least 16 of their ancestors' graves have been bulldozed. Mike believes the skeletons are in the spoil that has been pushed over.

“We won’t even be safe from the coal company when we’re dead,” Mike says.

Mike and Lessie's home, Dorothy, was hit hard in the 2001 flood (see pictures of flooding in Dorothy). “It was a little tsunami,” Mike said, “or a series of them.” It was early Sunday morning when Mike and his wife Leslie ran from their home of 29 years. “When we stepped outside, the water was up to our knees. When we got in our truck, the water came in the door. By the time we got to the other side of the house, about 45 seconds from walking out the door, the water was over the hood of our truck.”

The 2001 flood water level on the side of Maynors' old house.

A neighbor pointing to the high ground Mike and his wife ran to in the flood of 2001.

“We almost lost our lives that day. Good thing it was daylight,” Lessie said. “That’s the only reason we didn’t both die. Bad as it is to lose everything from 36 years of marriage, you can replace that eventually, but you can’t replace a life.”

Mike remembers, “we’ve had rain like that before, and we experienced what we’ve always experienced: low curbs get flooded, water in the road. We didn’t have 5 feet of water in the house. Great, huge trees floating by the house with the branches scraping everything as they went by, tearing out bridges.”

The floor of the Maynors' new home is higher that the ceiling of their old house.

Mike built their new home after their home was destroyed by the 2001 flood. Although he was told he should build it 6 cement blocks high, he built it 14 cement blocks high. Although they are six years into this new project, the Maynors still can not grow anything in their garden. Coal continues to surface in his yard from the rock, gravel, and coal that the floods brought onto his yard.

Coal in the Maynors' driveway

Despite all of his hard work, Mike is certainly not satisfied. If anything, he is much more concerned. "All this work that I’ve done, raising my house up 7 feet, is just false security. My neighbor said to me, ‘all that means, Mike, is that you’ll be the last one to drown.”

It is Mike and Lessie's concern over future flooding that has caused them to invite community members to their house this evening to talk about the Eagle 2 surface permit. In the 2001 flood, three sediment ponds failed in Buger hollow. There are 23 additional ponds slated for the Eagle 2 permit.

Lessie talks about the Eagle No. 2 permit that will affect everyone in the Dorothy, Colcord, and Sycamore area.

For the Maynors, it's not a question of if a flood will occur, it is a question of when. Like many residents of Dorothy, fear of flooding is part of their daily life. "I break down the weeds so that I can shine my spotlight across the steet and see how high the river is," Mike says.

The view from Mike's new porch. Notice the mowed area across the road. He did this so he can look from his front porch and see the level of the water in the river.

In addition to the fear of losing their lives in the next flood, they also are worried about the toxins in the water itself. Mike, a trucker for 30 years, has seen tankers without placards (legal requirement to state the contents of the truck) pass his house full and return empty. Knowing the mountains so well, Mike knows there are only a few places that tanker could be emptying. All of the options end up in the stream in front of his house, or in the floodwaters.

The foundation for the swinging bridge that used to cross the river. The water has been higher than the foundation multiple times since they started mining on Kayford.

The maple tree in his front yard that died after the flood of 2001. To the right of the telephone pole and just above the fence is the clearing Mike made so he could see the level of the river.

Text by Jen Osha
Pictures by Sam McCreery


AGI said...
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Patchoulimoon said...

many prayers to Mike and Lessie....and everyone else living with the atrocities of mountain top removal.