Right before Easter in 1977, a record-breaking flood hit the Appalachia region. The USGS reports show “heavy rains fell over…Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia during the period of April 2-5.”
“In 1977, I was 9 years old,” said Tamara Martin. “My three brothers, sister, mother and I were living in the apartment complex in Ramsey, Virginia. The flood of 1977 came. Mom kept saying that it wouldn’t get to the house, then it wouldn’t get in the house, then it wouldn’t get much worse. The oil tanks on the apartments overturned and fuel was floating on top of the water as it swallowed the area.”
According to The American National Red Cross 1977 Report, the Red Cross sent more than 400 volunteer and paid staff members to West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee to assist over 4,200 local volunteers.
Ham Radio Operators
Ham radio operators also played a vital role in the disaster relief as flooding isolated Appalachia. The American Radio Relay League and the Red Cross had a longstanding agreement that brought together over 50 hams during the flood, spending hundreds of volunteer hours relaying “emergency communications and health and welfare messages.” Photos show the Red Cross working with some of the thousands of residents who had to flee their homes.
The above image is of a woman named Nancy Barlow Sigmon in Norton, Virginia. She is likely at a shelter.
“We were eventually taken from the apartment in a boat and housed with a volunteer family of strangers until the water receded,” Martin remembers. “We lost everything to that flood. I remember it like it was yesterday because of the American Red Cross. The flood happened right at Easter and Red Cross personnel came around giving baggies of Easter candies to the kids. The assistance in replacing furniture, clothing and necessities was amazing but the kindness of those little bags of Easter goodies was an act of love and kindness that was simply amazing. Thank you American Red Cross. You make a difference.”