Early Sunday, rainwater, mud and debris poured down the hollows on both sides of Kayford Mountain. Residents blamed the flooding of their communities on the mountaintop-removal mine up the hill.
Earlier this year, as part of a still-unreleased study, federal experts found that these residents have reason to complain.
Mountaintop removal and other strip mining makes flooding more likely and can make floods that do occur worse, according to the study.
In fact, the study pinpointed potential flooding problems from Arch Coal Inc.'s huge Samples Mine, which straddles Kayford Mountain. The mine drains into Cabin Creek on the northern side, and Seng Creek to the south.
Mining in the area could increase peak storm runoff by up to 10 percent, according to an analysis by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the Army Corps of Engineers.
OSM and the Corps studied flooding potential at the Samples Mine and other operations as part of a broad study of mountaintop removal's environmental impacts.
In December 1998, federal government lawyers agreed to the study to settle part of a federal court lawsuit over mountaintop removal.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice promised that the study would be completed within two years. But the project has been repeatedly delayed, and no results have been formally published.
Earlier this year, The Charleston Gazette obtained thousands of pages of draft study documents through a federal Freedom of Information Act request.
Among the documents were several draft OSM and Corps studies of whether mining adds to coalfield flooding problems.
Corps and OSM engineers ran computer models to predict the runoff at the Samples Mine and another Arch Coal operation, the Hobet 21 Mine along the Boone-Lincoln county line.
At the Samples operation, the engineers studied the effects of two large valley fills. They found that one would increase peak runoff flow by about 3 percent, and the other by 13 percent.
At Hobet 21, a huge valley fill in Lincoln County would increase peak runoff flow by about 42 percent, the engineers found.