07/06/2016

The devastating flooding that hit West Virginia beginning Wednesday, June 22nd, killed at least 22, left hundreds homeless and caused billions of dollars in property damage. The destruction also forced the cancellation of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, originally scheduled this week at the historic Greenbrier Resort.

The host course, Old White TPC, has closed indefinitely and damage is so extensive that resort owner Jim Justice says he’s unable now to guarantee the course will be tournament-ready in time for the PGA Tour event in July, 2017.

“In all honesty,” Justice said, “the course will probably have to be completely redone.”

Justice, a billionaire coal and agriculture titan who was instrumental in bringing the PGA Tour back to West Virginia in 2010, toured the course to assess the damage shortly after the floodwaters began to recede. He found a high water mark on the 15th hole of Old White that crested five feet above the record 1915 flood level.

Nearly a foot of rain fell on the resort grounds; Howard’s Creek, which runs through the Old White TPC, overflowed quickly, its floodwaters covering and destroying greens, sand traps and fairways. All four courses at the Greenbrier sustained extensive damage and remain closed; only the Greenbrier Course is expected to reopen this summer.

During the height of the storm, local resident and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, tweeted a series of photos of the course covered with quickly flowing muddy water.

The early phases of the cleanup are not yet complete two weeks after the killer storm, as mud, debris and grandstands are still being removed from the course and resort grounds.

In the immediate aftermath of the flood, two bodies were found on resort property and in all 14 people lost their lives in Greenbrier County. The Greenbrier Resort is currently closed to guests; the normally pricey rooms converted to temporary housing for over 300 displaced area residents. It’s unclear when the resort will be able to resume normal business.

While the storms rampaged across the state, causing what’s called the third worst flood in West Virginia history and the worst in 100 years, the damage was particularly acute in White Sulphur Springs, the site of the Greenbrier Resort.

According to the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch, over nine inches of rain fell on the county in the storm’s first blast, followed by another four inches in the next 24 hours. Creeks, streams and rivers all overflowed, roads were washed away, bridges were cutoff, power was out in many areas and over 100 homes were washed away. Statewide, 22 people lost their lives with one still reported missing.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement that he expects the Tour to be able to return to the Greenbrier next year. (The Tour is committed to the Greenbrier Classic through at least 2021.)

“This is a tremendous partnership and we’ve received unbelievable support from golf fans throughout the region,” Finchem said. “We know we will have the opportunity to return again next year and we look forward to that time.

“But for now, that is of secondary concern. The priority is the safety of the residents and their recovery from this disaster.”
Donations for those made homeless by the West Virginia flooding are being accepted by Justice’s flood-relief charity, Neighbors Loving Neighbors.