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Turning a Disaster Into a Cookout – One Flood Response

When a culvert collapsed, cutting off the Crossings Mall in Elkview, some of the Kroger workers there fired up the grills to feed the hundreds of folks trapped at the shopping plaza. (Dan Heyman)
When a culvert collapsed, cutting off the Crossings Mall in Elkview, some of the Kroger workers there fired up the grills to feed the hundreds of folks trapped at the shopping plaza. (Dan Heyman)
June 27, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The floods have been tragic and disastrous, but they also gave folks a chance to show the instinct for neighborliness West Virginians are known for. When the bridge into the Crossings Mall in Elkview collapsed, it took out the only road into the shopping plaza. Hundreds of people were trapped. But at least Kroger employees like Cody Deahl made sure they had something to eat. Deahl said they cranked up a couple of the store's propane grills and cooked steak, chicken and other foods. He said it turned into a nice cook-out.

"I guess it was," he said. "I mean, it's like everybody wants to go to the beach, and we were trapped on our own little island for a little while. So, why not?"

After a couple of days all but cut off, emergency workers built a temporary access road into the back of the plaza.

Many trapped at the mall were sleeping in their cars and everyone was doing without running water. But Kroger co-manager Jamie Barker said everyone tried to stay positive. After the foot-traffic access road was opened, they agreed to help a woman who was passing out cleaning supplies who, against the rules, drove her vehicle into the shopping plaza.

"She actually snuck by the cops while they were talking to the National Guard," she said. "Drove her van up here. They were buying some stuff out of their own pocket. She asked us if there was any way that we could donate. So we said 'get a buggy, load it up, and we'll donate whatever you can fit in this buggy.'"

Some of the Kroger employees doing the cooking were also trapped. Deahl said he was dying to take a shower. But he still seemed upbeat about the situation. Deahl said the store manager told them to go find all the meat that was nearly out of date and serve all of that.

"Hundred and twenty pieces of chicken, about a hundred some pieces of steak," he added. "Why throw it away when we could just give it to people who need it?"

Deahl said helping out in an emergency is not that unusual. "We're West Virginians," he said. "That's just what we do."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV