SPENCER, W.Va. -- During his career in the West Virginia Army National Guard, Don Hudkins was called to active duty to provide disaster relief following the deadly 1972 Buffalo Creek flood and the widespread flooding that swept through the state's Eastern mountains in 1985.
Now retired, Hudkins found himself in a National Guard armory again Friday -- this time to seek aid from a Red Cross disaster-assistance center established there in the wake of Thursday's flash flooding in his hometown.
Hudkins owns one of about 100 Spencer houses damaged by the most severe flooding to sweep through this Roane County town since 1903. While he and his wife were able to take temporary shelter in a friend's house, they have been getting meals and picking up cleanup supplies at the Red Cross center.
Since Thursday night, the center has served or delivered nearly 1,000 meals to flood victims and emergency workers. Seven people spent the night in the center.
"I know what it's like to go 11 days without taking a shower to help people after a flood," Hudkins said. "Now I know what it feels like to be on the other side. It makes you appreciate what people are willing to do for you."
Hudkins said he and his wife, like many other flood-stricken Spencer residents who lack flood insurance, also are wondering what assistance will be available to help them repair structural damage and clean up or replace water-logged household items.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who toured Spencer on Friday, said it would take a few days to determine if Roane County is eligible to receive flood relief funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The fact that the most severe damage is limited to only one county could make receiving a federal disaster declaration difficult, he said.
National Guard health and damage assessment teams began moving through Spencer and the surrounding countryside Friday.
West Virginia Adjutant General James Hoyer, who accompanied Tomblin during his tour of Spencer, said an additional 85 to 100 National Guard soldiers are expected to help clear debris and flood-ruined household goods from Spencer, Walton and other sections of Roane County over the next several days.
"We have a lot of people with no flood insurance who have gone 50 or 60 years without having water get into their houses until now," Spencer Mayor Terry Williams told Tomblin. "Many of these folks are without the ways, means or abilities needed to tear out carpet and remove flood-damaged furniture from their homes. It's pretty sad."
State Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato, who also accompanied Tomblin, told Williams that three flood-relief teams from the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters group were en route to Spencer to perform just those types of chores.