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MetroNews This Morning 6-22-21

Storms Monday afternoon and overnight leave some damage, mostly in northern West Virginia. The rebound from the 2016 flood continues even five years after the water destroyed everything in its path. Governor Jim Justice talks about vaccinations again in his first media briefing of the week. A Pendleton County mail carrier learns his fate for tampering with mail in election information. Two are killed in separate ATV wrecks in West Virginia and rail traffic in Mercer County is halted by cows. In Sports, the Mountaineers get a commitment from a highly touted quarterback prospect from Arizona and the state softball tourney is ready to go today–weather permitting. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 6-22-21” on Spreaker.

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Calmer weather forecasted following Monday’s storms

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Competing weather systems collided above West Virginia Monday creating heavy thunderstorms that left behind some damage.

It appears the northern part of the state pick up the most rain.

There’s highway damage in Marshall County where more than 1,300 customers were without electrical service Tuesday morning. Some of the highway damage was reported along U.S. Route 250 in Cameron.

The heavy rain was too much for highway storms to keep up along Interstate 68 just east of Morgantown. Part of the interstate was flooded near Cheat Lake for a period of time.

Southern counties had rain but not much flooding was reporting. The most widespread power outages were reported in Roane and Wayne counties.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service said Tuesday woudl be the start of a few calm days in West Virginia with afternoon temperatures in the 70s and night time lows in the 50s and upper 40s in some areas. The next best chance for rain is Saturday.

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West Virginians Pulled Together During the Flood

Five years ago tomorrow, torrential rains produced widespread flooding in West Virginia.  Up to ten inches of rain over a 12-to-18-hour period sent creeks and rivers roaring over their banks.

Mud and debris-filled flood waters killed 23 people, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged, roads and bridges were washed away.

The National Weather Service described the rain and flooding as a 1,000 year event.  President Obama quickly declared Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties as disaster areas.  More than a dozen additional counties would later be included.

(More on the flood anniversary from Brad McElhinny here and Chris Lawrence here.)

The magnitude of the damage and the loss was overwhelming. Thousands of shell-shocked West Virginians were faced with the staggering challenge of cleaning out foul-smelling mud and ruined furnishings while also trying to meet the necessities of daily life.

Fortunately, most of the flood victims learned quickly that they were not alone. Community spirit is strong in West Virginia.  Neighbors pitched in to help each other. Strangers started showing up in flood-damaged regions to volunteer.

Faith-based organizations popped up seemingly out of nowhere to provide a free meal and a comforting shoulder. The state swung into action with relief help. National Guard troops and their equipment became a helpful and reassuring presence.

Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier) was a guest on Talkline yesterday.  When I asked him what he recalled about the flood five years ago, he said two things:  The stagnant, sour stench left behind by the flood waters, but also the willingness of people to pitch in.

“There was a period for about two months afterward where all we did was muck-out houses and I will never, forget that smell,” Baldwin said, but he added, “I’ll also never forget how many people came to help.”

Clendenin was hit hard.  Resident Susan Jack said on Talkline that after the flood, the first challenge was to just get over the shock.  “We had no water, no power, no cable, nothing. It was like being blown back into the dark ages,” she said.  “It was absolute misery.”

“If not for these groups that came in to help us, I don’t know what we would have done,” Jack said.

Self-interest is a powerful motivator of human behavior. We are wired for survival and so our actions often reflect what is in our own interest. However, we are also driven by altruism, the act of helping someone else even if there is no benefit—and possibly even a loss—to us.

Maybe those conflicting motivations co-exist within each of us.  But it is reassuring when altruism prevails.  The faithful know the Bible’s many references to the necessity to help others, most notably Jesus’s commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

But religiosity is not necessary for generosity.  Many people who have never set foot in a church still have a strong sense of community and a moral compass that guides them to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Whatever the motivation, when that terrible flood hit, West Virginians, as well as others from outside the state, stepped up to help in so many ways.  So, the memory of that tragedy five years ago is not just about devastation and loss; it is also about generosity and gratitude.





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Pendleton County mail carrier sentenced in election fraud case

ELKINS, W.Va. — A Pendleton County mail carrier was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty last year to election fraud charges.

Thomas Cooper, 48, of Dry Fork admitted last year to altering eight ballot request forms ahead of West Virginia’s primary election. The party affiliation on five forms was changed from Democrat to Republican.

Cooper was responsible for delivering mail in the areas where the altered forms were delivered. He pleaded guilty in July 2020 to attempt to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election and injury to the mail.

Cooper was sentenced Monday to five years of probation, which includes six months in home confinement.

“This conviction and sentencing should serve as a strong warning to anyone else who feels tempted to commit election fraud,” state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. “As we have stressed in the past, our team remains committed to protecting the integrity of elections in West Virginia. We will use every means provided by the law to do so.”

A Pendleton County election official noticed the alterations and reported the issue to the state’s Election Fraud Task Force.

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US Senate unlikely to open debate on elections measure

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate will vote Tuesday on moving forward with a sweeping elections bill, although Republicans will likely filibuster the attempt to advance the legislation.

The Senate will vote to begin debate on the For the People Act, a top Democratic priority that would increase voter options and ensure access while also addressing gerrymandering and campaign financing.

Sixty senators have to approve opening debate on the measure, but Republicans are expected to block further action. The Senate is split between the Democratic and Republican caucuses, and Vice President Kamala Harris is responsible for delivering a tiebreaking vote if needed.

“Will our Republicans let it debate it?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday on the Senate floor. “That’s the only question on the table for the United States Senate tomorrow, and we’re about to find out how my Republican colleagues will answer that question.”

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in March. West Virginia Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller joined Republican colleagues in opposing the resolution.

Democrats have pushed the For the People Act as Republican-led state legislatures approved bills that voting rights groups argue would make it more difficult for minority people to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that would restrict voting access, and 18 state legislatures are considering 61 bills with provisions limiting voting methods.

The Democratic push also comes amid former President Donald Trump’s ongoing challenge of the presidential election results, in which Trump and allies have failed to provide evidence of voter fraud impacting the outcome.

“At the same time state legislatures are trying to restrict access to the ballot box, they’re also trying to weaken the ability of state courts to protect the rights of voters in election-related cases,” said Patrick Berry, a fellow and counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.

“State legislatures and governors across the country have regularly targeted their state courts, often in retaliation for decisions they disagree with in an effort to politicize or undermine their independence. While we have been tracking these efforts over the years, what we’re seeing this year is a shocking new trend of state courts being targeted for their roles in safeguarding our democracy.”

Berry participated in a virtual town hall Monday focused on the elections bill as well as state legislative actions. West Virginia Citizens for Clean Election hosted the event, in which West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword and former state Delegate Sammi Brown also participated.

Brown called Congress’ consideration of the sweeping elections bill “truly historic.”

“On so many levels — regardless of where you align on the political spectrum — For the People Act addresses those concerns that have been brought up, particularly during the 2020 election,” she said.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have already voiced their opposition to the proposal as presented. Manchin wrote an opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail earlier this month urging colleagues to work together on a bipartisan elections proposal.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin)

“During my time as West Virginia’s secretary of state, I was determined to protect this right and ensure our elections are fair, accessible and secure. Not to benefit my party but all the people of West Virginia,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.”

The Poor People’s Campaign held a demonstration last week in Charleston urging Manchin to reconsider his opposition and stances on other legislative issues. Hundreds of people walked a mile from Magic Island Park to Manchin’s office as part of the protest.

“This is what you are saying, Sen. Manchin, when you are against the For the People Act,” Rev. William Barber told demonstrators. “You are saying that you are against curbing voter suppression. You are saying that you are against making it easier for all Americans to register and vote and cast a ballot. You are saying you are against outlawing political gerrymandering. And you are saying that you are against overhauling our campaign finance laws so that the voices of ordinary people can be amplified, and the voices of corrupt corporations and the ruling elite class can be lessened.”

Capito has described the For the People Act as federal overreach that takes power away from state elections officials.

“We need to give our states and our secretary of states and our clerks the flexibility to tailor the voting in the best way to get the best turnout,” she told reporters last week.

Manchin sent a memo to colleagues last week about possible changes to the proposal, including requiring voter ID with some alternatives like a utility bill.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden appreciates the senator’s efforts on passing a voting measure. The president also hosted Manchin at the White House on Monday, in which the two discussed voting rights and infrastructure.

Manchin has voiced support for reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and updating the formula allowing the federal government to review local and state elections laws. The Supreme Court struck down the federal government’s oversight in 2013, ruling the method was outdated.

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Business partners in Greenbrier County wanted to be part of the solution

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — With sawdust on their pants, business partners Dave Bostic, Clay Elkins, and Jay Groseclose sat down at a picnic table in the dining area of their Road Hogs Barbecue joint in downtown White Sulphur Springs. The trio took a break from carpentry work to talk about the next phase of their vision for a new business venture in downtown White Sulphur Springs.  Their property sits at the confluence of Howards Creek and Dry Creek in the middle of downtown..

“Main Street was flooded and all the way down Route 60 it was flooded. You’ve seen the news feeds of houses floating down the river on fire. But we were lucky it happened during the day or it would have been much worse,” said Bostic.

Five years ago this week, the area where we now had a conversation over barbecue and sweet iced tea had water six feet over our heads. All of the downtown was wiped out by the high water from a torrential rain. It was one of the worst natural disasters in West Virginia history.

“Water was everywhere, all the way through town. It changed the flood planes and the flood zones and it was devastating,” Bostic said.

At the time, Bostic and his business partners did not own any downtown property. However, in the wake of the disaster they decided to become part of the solution. The three pooled resources, bought an entire city block, and began to build.

“You have to see a vision. You have to look past the walls and especially when the building is down to just gravel on the floor. You have to have a vision for how its going to look,” said Elkins.

“We bought these buildings after the floods. We bought it to initiate the revitalization of downtown White Sulphur Springs,” Bostic said.

The plans started out in 2017 with procurement and design. By 2019 they had reopened what was formerly called Bones Diner; It’s now Road Hogs BBQ with a pink pig named Petunia out front, a back porch with open air dining, a picnic table dining area and a mini stage for live music. The trio agreed they wanted to keep the historic look of the old diner, and refurbished the front façade. However, once you walk through the front door–it’s an entirely new place.

Listen to “Chris Lawrence — White Sulphur Springs Downtown Recovery” on Spreaker.According to Bostic Road Hogs was phase one because it was the quickest to complete. Phase two will open up 4th of July weekend. What was once a hardware store has been repurposed into a craft brewery, pub, coffee house, and live music venue. Big Draft Brewing is slated for a grand opening during the upcoming Independence Day activities.

“We wanted to create destination entertainment. We wanted to create somewhere you can go for a fun, safe experience, great food, local music and enjoy the outdoors. It’s funny when we started Road Hogs there were a lot of naysayers who didn’t think what has happened could or would have happened,” Bostic said.

But, it is happening. Other restaurants and shops down the block are cleaned up and shining again. There’s a new restaurant on the other end of the block.  An old school is undergoing a conversion into a boutique hotel. Bostic credited the people within the community and city leaders for having the right vision and making it possible for private businesses to bring those visions to life.

“I like to say we threw the pebble in the pond with development. As soon as we started, the whole town was purchased and the whole town got involved. People came in and believed in this town and what it could become and they’ve really made it happen,” he said.

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Heath: Businesses, restaurants trying to catch up with demand as COVID mandates are lifted

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the state’s mask mandate lifted on Sunday, businesses and restaurants can now operate at full capacity with no COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Richie Heath, the West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association (WVHTA) Executive Director told MetroNews while that’s now an option, the lack of workforce at some places is forcing restaurants to keep guidelines such as only using half its capacity.

And with the pent-up demand from the public getting back out into a social world, Heath said it’s creating stress for many service industry workers.

Richie Heath

“Places are basically getting by on full-service, huge crowds with a limited skeleton crew. That’s with people doing multiple things and that includes business owners,” Heath said on Monday.

Heath said he has heard from places around the state that are having hard times even holding interviews for positions and having anyone qualified to take open positions. Those same businesses had to cut staff, in some instances in half, during the pandemic to cut costs.

He said Gov. Jim Justice’s ending enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits on June 19 could boost the workforce in coming weeks. Justice’s decision halted an additional $300 payment to unemployment compensation recipients, stopped benefits for self-employed or part-time workers who wouldn’t usually qualify, ended an extension of benefits for people whose regular benefits have exhausted, and stopped an additional $100 benefit for certain people with mixed earnings.

A lot of businesses have tried to get creative to attract workers back to the job, Heath said, including some incentives. But Heath said restaurants and businesses have only been able to go so far because of the financial hit they’ve taken during the pandemic.

“A lot of folks have incurred debt, additional loans,” Heath said. “The relief funds have been helpful and a good portion of those are forgivable at the federal level. It’s certainly something that folks will be, from a business perspective, digging out from under over the course of the next months to a year.”

Overall, Heath said closures of businesses have been far less worse than expected. He said there were major questions during the winter months of getting through them with no outdoor dining and half-filled indoor seating.

For now, patrons whether vaccinated or unvaccinated from COVID-19 will not be required to wear a mask anywhere. Heath said the coming weeks should bring booming sales numbers in spots with the demand but there is concern of whether the workforce can match the demand.

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Satterfield hopes versatility pays off at West Liberty

The performance of Aiden Satterfield in last Friday’s North-South All-Star Basketball Classic was much like what people across the state had come to expect from Satterfield during his career at Charleston Catholic.

A 6-foot-7 senior, Satterfield led the South with 25 points in a 105-104 loss to the North at South Charleston Community Center. Satterfield scored in a variety of ways. He made four three-pointers, one of which was part of a four-point play. He also had multiple dunks, scored on drives to the rim and displayed a mid-range jump shot with a release that makes it difficult to block and contest.

Despite being the tallest player on the court for the majority of his games as a senior, Satterfield showed he was just as — if not more —comfortable playing away from the basket instead of under it. The two-time first-team all-state selection, who will play at West Liberty, says that’s by design.

“I feel like in West Virginia it’s a stigma to where taller kids have to stay under the basket, but that’s not the case,” Satterfield said. “If you work hard and get a good skill set as a guard, than you can play any position at any size. I’m just trying to change the narrative a little bit.”

Satterfield’s versatility should suit him well at West Liberty. The Hilltoppers have consistently been among the nation’s highest-scoring teams over the last decade and like to space the floor and shoot an abundance of three-pointers.

Having the height and length to play at and above the rim is a major plus for Satterfield, who won the dunk contest prior to the North-South game. So, too, is his ability to score on the perimeter, handle the ball and keep opposing defenses spread — all traits that should help him on the Hilltoppers.

“I’ve been in the gym every day and two times a day sometimes,” Satterfield said. “I’m working as hard as I can and I want to be able to help the team next year in some type of way hopefully.”

Satterfield’s 19.1 scoring average as a junior earned him Class A first-team all-state honors. When the Irish jumped up to Class AA this past season, Satterfield was again a first-team all-state honoree after averaging 21.4 points. He also surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the postseason.

Were it not for late-game heroics from Poca’s Isaac McKneely (the state player of the year), Satterfield would have led the Irish to the Class AA final after he scored 22 of his team’s 40 points in a state semifinal against the Dots. His layup in the final seconds gave the Irish a one-point lead before McKneely connected on a game-winning three-point just before the buzzer sounded.

“I love Charleston Catholic. They’ve done so much for me,” Satterfield said after his final time representing the Irish. “The least I could do is play my heart out for them.”

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New champion to be crowned in Class AA baseball

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The last of the twelve spots in the state baseball tournament field was claimed by Independence High School. After erasing a five-run first inning deficit against Bluefield in the decisive game of the Region III tournament, the Patriots won 14-13 in a game that took 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete. Independence will compete at states for the first time since 2014.

The Patriots are 23-4 and have been perched atop the MetroNews Power Index for most of the season. Scott Cuthbert’s team staved off elimination twice in the postseason. North Carolina State signee Michael McKinney is batting .451 and he leads the team with five home runs. Clay Basham is hitting .584 and has 54 RBI in 99 plate appearances. Division I football prospect Atticus Goodson leads the team with 47 runs scored.

The Patriots will face a state tournament newcomer in the semifinal round Friday morning at 10 a.m. After four decades, North Marion claimed their first regional title Wednesday. The Huskies swept 2019 state runner-up Frankfort thanks in large part to a two-hitter tossed by Jace Rinehart in the closeout game.

After going 13-9 in the regular season, Vic Seccuro’s squad won all five playoff games and only one of those was at home. The Huskies won three sectional games in the northern panhandle and then won at Frankfort in a game that took two days to complete due to weather. Five of the Huskies in their normal starting lineup are underclassmen. North has scored ten runs or more in 14 of their 27 games.

The second semifinal Friday will feature a pair of Cardinal Conference squads with Logan and Herbert Hoover. The Wildcats are 27-6 and they swept two regular season meetings with the Huskies. Logan dropped their regional opener to Point Pleasant but they rallied to win back-to-back elimination games.

Kevin Gertz fields a young roster with only two seniors. In the regular season, sophomore Aiden Slack led the Wildcats with a .488 batting average. Dawson Maynard and Tyler Fenwick have been the top two starters in the Logan pitching rotation. This is Logan’s first trip to the state tournament in a dozen years and they have won 12 of their last 13 games.

Herbert Hoover makes the short trip to Charleston after a 20-12 season. The Huskies are a perfect 5-0 in postseason play and they scored 22 runs in two regional games. Matthew Toops led the Huskies at the plate in the regular season with a .378 batting average. Ryan Elkins and Nick Grayam combined for 42 RBI.

The Huskies underwent a remarkable turnaround in just two years. In the spring of 2019, Hoover won just 7 of 32 games.

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Photo gallery: Logan edges Bridgeport 3-2 in state tourney prep game

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Logan’s 3-2 win over Bridgeport in a state tournament prep game. The Wildcats (27-6) will face Herbert Hoover in the Class AA semifinals Friday afternoon. The Indians (32-4) will face Jefferson Thursday evening in the Class AAA semifinals.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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