WEST VIRGINIA: Disaster in the Hollow

Three days of rain mixed with a runoff of snow had dramatically raised the level of the lake dammed up behind the huge coal-slag heap at the head of Buffalo Creek. It was still raining hard at 5:30 a.m. when Logan County Deputy Sheriff Otto Mutters was awakened by a phone call from another deputy warning him that the slag heap was in danger of giving way. As Mutters remembers, "My gut went tight."

Deep in West Virginia's soft-coal region, where tough miners and their families have lived for decades along the narrow...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!