The White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., resort remains closed for business as it provides victims of the state-wide flooding with food and shelter. The Greenbrier Sports Performance Center is now open as a FEMA Point of Distribution, offering supplies such as baby products, toiletries, generators, tools, food, water, and more.
White Sulphur Springs, W.V. (June 29, 2016) - A report by The Associated Press details the damage incurred by The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., as a result of the heavy rains and flooding in the state that killed at least 23 people.
Running through the Old White TPC golf course, Howard’s Creek raged over its banks during the pounding storms Thursday. When the worst of it was over, Greenbrier employees came upon two bodies on the resort grounds, and they are draining a lake on the 16th fairway to search for more, the AP reported.
Dating back to 1778, the 700-room resort with an iconic white facade has long been one of the jewels of West Virginia’s tourism industry, hosting presidents and royalty and holding a once-secret underground bunker built for Congress in case of nuclear attack during the Cold War, the AP reported.
But on Tuesday, 300 of the neediest victims from the flood-ravaged area occupied the rooms, and the hotel was closed for business while it fed and sheltered the disaster refugees, the AP reported.
“West Virginians are tough, loving, prideful, good people. They’ll bond together, and I’ve said this many times, they’ll get through this,” said billionaire Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, who threw open the place for use as a shelter.
“We won’t forget it, and we’re not supposed to forget it. And we’ll be scarred with it forever, but we’ll survive it, and we’ll figure it out.”
The Greenbrier Sports Performance Center opened this morning to conduct emergency protective measures to distribute emergency supplies. As a FEMA Point of Distribution (POD), those impacted by the damage can pick up any supplies they need as part of The Greenbrier’s Neighbors Loving Neighbors campaign. Everything from cleaning supplies to baby products, toiletries, generators, tools, food, water and much more can be picked up at the location on Kate’s Mountain Road, just across the street from The Greenbrier’s main property. Air conditioning stations, portable bathrooms, cell phone charging stations and hand washing/sanitizing stations will also be available.
“We want to help as many people as possible, and we’ve done our best to try to have everything they might need available for them,” said Habibi Mamone, Executive Tournament Director, The Greenbrier Classic. “We want to make it easy for them, and we encourage anybody who needs help to come get what they need.”
Donations are still being accepted to Neighbors Loving Neighbors, which aims to help get West Virginians back on their feet. Recently, FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones stepped up to donate the company’s $50,000 sponsorship of The Greenbrier Classic, which had to be canceled because of the disaster, to Neighbors Loving Neighbors, and Brickstreet Insurance donated one-third of its sponsorship, with the other two-thirds going to other area charities. Grand Home Furnishing gave a portion of its sponsorship money to Neighbors Loving Neighbors and will use another portion of it in advertising for the campaign.
The New Orleans Saints, who spend a portion of their summer Training Camp at The Greenbrier Sports Performance Center, have stepped forward, with head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and quarterback Drew Brees all making donations. Jerry and Karen West have made a generous donation to the project, as have Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley. The Golden State Warriors are sending clothing to be distributed, and stars from the golfing world like Bubba Watson, Stuart Appleby and Phil Mickelson have offered their assistance, as well.
Wendy’s, Keller Williams, Joe Subrick, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Walker and the Howard family from Charleston, W.Va., are among others who have made major contributions to assist the cause.
“People from all over the place are asking what they can do to help,” said Justice. “It has been wonderful to see the way people have responded, but we still need more. These people are really hurting, and anything we can do to help could make a huge difference.”
Donations are still being accepted and are greatly needed. For information on how to help the cause, visit Greenbrier.com/neighbors.
Fifteen people died in the resort’s namesake county, Greenbrier, where many were swept away by swift, mucky floodwaters. A dead 14-year-old boy washed up against a maintenance shed at the resort, and the body of an elderly man was pulled from of a lake on the grounds, the AP reported.
The Old White had been manicured to host some of golf’s biggest names at a tournament starting July 7. The event was going to be free for the first time, and about 300,000 fans were expected. But then the rains began, and the water rose and kept rising, the AP reported.
On Thursday evening, pro golfer Bubba Watson, who has a home at the resort, tweeted a video that showed that the course had become a flowing river of brown water.
After the rain stopped, Justice checked out a high-water mark on the 15th hole, a record that was set in 1915. This flood topped it by 5 feet. The Greenbrier’s newly built chapel was filled with 4 feet of mud. At the tennis complex, mud coated a few levels of seats around the year-old center court. Water spilled into several areas of the resort’s main building, but Justice said it might be able to reopen in a month or two, the AP reported.
The golf course is another story. It might take a full year to bring Old White back into proper shape so the PGA Tour can come back in 2017 as expected. “In all honesty, the course will probably have to be completely redone,” Justice said.
The Greenbrier is also set to host the New Orleans Saints’ training camp starting in late July. The NFL team said it is still coming, the AP reported.
Justice, a coal and agriculture magnate who is the Democratic nominee for governor in November, has put the campaign on hold for at least two weeks. “Honest to Pete, that’s the last thing that I need to be doing today,” he said.
Instead of campaign checks, money to help the victims is starting to roll in. As they grabbed a free lunch Tuesday, flood victims staying at the Greenbrier said they were grateful, the AP reported.
Kenneth Hoke, 45, fled his home Thursday in Monroe County to stay at the Greenbrier with his wife, Melanie. By the time he left, water had crept up to the bottom of the stairs and was rising quickly. He hasn’t been home since. “We were hit pretty hard in the hollow,” Hoke said. “We lost everything we had.”