Following a record rise in the flow of water and an inability of local rescue agencies to cope with the difficulties, Wildwater Unlimited responded to a special request from the Governor’s office and sent one of its motorized “snout rigs” to the area. These boats consist of two large pontoons, a large horse power outboard engine, and modified frames. They have been used to proved a thrilling ride down the New River Gorge for guests of the company at flows well in excess of 50,000 CFS and as a support boat in at least six other rescues over the last five years. Despite difficulties caused by washed-out bridges and road, the Thurmond, West Virginia company was able to arrive at the scene after an all night drive.
While waiting for daylight, they began setting up their equipment. Going through the town using the streets as guidelines for operation of the snout rig, they were assisting people in getting out of second floors of their homes. The rise in the water was so quick that many people, while attempting to save some of their belongings, ended up being trapped in their homes. The water swept thru the streets with such force that it moved many houses off their foundations, smashing them into one another. There was a tremendous amount of current in town even though it was 300 yards away from the main stream of the Greenbrier River .
With the aid of state and county law enforcement agencies, and the expertise and equipment of a trained outfitter, it is very possible that the further loss of life was diminished in a catastrophic situation, which few can comprehend; and to use an old cliché, you had to see it to believe it!
The company’s headquarters in Thurmond, protected by Bluestone Dam, was undamaged by the flood. However, in the Cheat River Valley , the headquarters of Appalachian Wildwaters, Cheat River Outfitters and Mountain Streams and Trails were completely destroyed. Many of the famous West Virginia runs have been completely and permanently altered.