Brrrrr! Call it a Polar Vortex, an Arctic Blast, or Ice Ice Baby, last week’s frigid weather caused a great deal of problems across the western region of the state. Below freezing temperatures caused pipes to freeze and rupture flooding homes and buildings including county offices and public libraries. Yancey County had a series of flooding emergencies from the county jail to town square. While those managed to avoid damaging documents, the leak at the county library rained down on several sections sending the staff and friends of the library into salvage and recovery mode.
A pipe in the attic space froze and expanded, separating at a joint. When it began to thaw, water came pouring into the drywall ceiling, eventually causing it to collapse. The water then continued to the first floor raining down on the bookshelves in the children, juvenile, history, and reference areas.
On Thursday (January 9th) Regional Director, Dan Barron, put out a call to the State Library for assistance. They contacted the newly created Cultural Resources Emergency Salvage Team, CREST and within two hours of the initial request for help, DCR staff members from our Western Office and Archives were mobilized and on the scene to offer technical advice and assistance. [for more information on the CREST Project see http://www.ncdcr.gov/c2c/Prepare/CRESTProject.aspx]
Western Office Supervisor Jeff Futch, Archivist Heather South and Savannah Murray, intern with the Western Regional Archives, got right to work assessing the damage, helping to set up triage areas and instructing the librarians and Friends of the Library volunteers how to air dry and begin salvaging wet and damp books.
Luckily the archives area of the building was unaffected and the quick thinking of the library staff and extra hands of the friends group meant that less than 100 volumes will be lost from their holdings. However, it will take months to recover and for the historic building to reopen. As South reported, “While we were there, many community members came by and were devastated that something had happened to their library. In a small town, libraries become the heart of the community and I think the fact responders were there helping save their precious library meant more to them then we’ll ever know. The have a long road ahead but are in good spirits and have a great team of staff members and regular volunteers who are working hard to recover and reopen.”
While it might have been Yikes in Yancey this time, disasters can happen anywhere and anytime. This incident serves as a reminder that we need to have plans in place for our cultural resources, know who to call in the case of an emergency, and how to tackle salvage efforts. The DCR Western Office was glad to be part of the CREST program and able to help. For more information and images from the recovery efforts in Yancey County, check out the WRA facebook page