Church slammed by Thursday flash flood, grapples with aftermath

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Pastor Frank Bounds walks through the damaged sanctuary.

It rained almost four inches in about 45 minute. Water lines about four feet high mark the interior of Ripley Pentecostal Church. When Frank Bounds came to check on the church Thursday night, there was a whirlpool inside. 

The front door was ripped off, all of the sound equipment was immersed in the murky water and all of the chairs that were once in tidy lines in the sanctuary now lay in disarray. 

Bounds, the church's pastor, said they have been at this location for about eight months. He spent most of that time remodeling the building. New carpet, lighting and walls were installed. It cost about $50,000 to renovate the church, Bounds said. He spent Thursday with his wife laying and rolling rock down in the parking lot. Their work was washed away. 

"It's heartbreaking," Bounds said. "It was such a beautiful church."

For now, church services will be held in a facility located at the end of Straight Street. Service will be held this Sunday at 10 a.m. as usual. 

The music will sound different, though. The PA system is gone, the guitar in the building is gone, the only piece of equipment that made it was a keyboard. 

As Bounds mulled over the condition of the church, the Department of Highways was cleaning debris off the road. Department employee Tom Fouty said this flood was unlike anything he's seen in the area. 

"I've been in some bad floods, but it was strong waters [last night]," Fouty said. 

There was a storm that hit Ripley late Wednesday night, and Bounds said the church had some damage from that. Water leaked into the foyer, bathroom and a small portion of the sanctuary. Stanley Steamer came by Thursday to clean the carpet. 

Bounds' brother-in-law Gary Johnson came by Friday morning to look at the damages. He said it was hard to believe what he was seeing. 

"I was devastated, saddened," Johnson said. "It's sad, but there's nothing you can do." 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.