Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


January 14, 2014

Overcoming adversity: W.Va. residents weather crisis

— — If there is one thing residents of the Mountain State are known for it is overcoming adversity. No matter how great the obstacle we face, we persevere, endure and ultimately overcome.

We did so during the Great Blizzard of 1993, and again during the historic floods of 2001, 2002 and 2003. We endured record-breaking heat without electricity following the derecho storm of 2011, and thousands survived without heat and electricity last week despite subzero temperatures and a rare weather phenomenon dubbed by meteorologists as a polar vortex.

But we would be tested again — this time only days later. A large-scale chemical spill left more than 300,000 in nine counties without tap water. The chemical spill — a story that quickly went national — prompted great concern across the state. But we overcame the odds once again.

At around noon Monday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced he was lifting the ban on tap water that had been in effect since last week. The more than 300,000 who had been told not to drink, wash or use the water in any way other than to flush their toilets will soon once again be able to use water from their own kitchen faucets.

The crisis is nearing an end. Once again we persevered. Once again we overcame the greatest of odds.

The ban is being lifted in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system is not overwhelmed by excessive demand, which could cause more water quality and service issues, according to Tomblin. Customers also are being asked to flush out their systems before using the water again, and officials are cautioning that the water could still have an odor. But it is safe.

A few inconveniences will remain in the days ahead, but those impacted by the chemical spill can take comfort in knowing that the crisis is almost over. And although the nation was watching, it is important to note that residents were able to present a largely positive image of the Mountain State to the rest of the world — despite the great adversity they were faced with.

Jimmy Gianato, a McDowell County native who serves as the director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for West Virginia, may have summarized it best last week. Gianato, who took a few minutes to speak to the Daily Telegraph during the height of the crisis, described the enduring spirit of the state residents.

“It’s the way West Virginians are,” Gianato said. “To me, it was just another example of West Virginians helping West Virginians. I’ve been through several challenging events, but one thing has been constant — West Virginians helping West Virginians.”

We couldn’t agree more. Everyone is to be applauded for their patience, their willingness to help their neighbors in need during the past six days and their spirit of endurance during this great crisis.

Once again we have overcome the greatest of odds.

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