- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Brad Paisley said he’s shocked and heartbroken by the destruction from deadly flooding in his home state of West Virginia.

On Thursday the singer visited flood-ravaged Clendenin, a town of 1,200 people ravaged by the swollen Elk River last week. Bridges were destroyed and homes were ripped from their foundations. Six people in Kanawha (KUH-naw) County died and 23 were killed statewide.

“It’s crazy,” Paisley said in a telephone interview. “There isn’t much of that town that wasn’t under water. The school was under water. The fire department was under water. The Dairy Queen is demolished. The Rite-Aid is demolished. As a person who comes from a small town about that size, it’s nuts.”

Outside the Advent Christian Church, Paisley saw discarded pews and a stack of wood, tables and other items more than 7 feet high.

Inside Herbert Hoover High School, the gymnasium floor was buckled and covered in mud. In the band room, guitars were strewn about on a still-wet floor.

Paisley was especially moved by a family with five young children he saw on a porch on a steep hill above a now-dry creek. The water had risen high enough to flood their home.

“I realized I think they just walked up to the top of the mountain and waited it out. That’s what they would have had to have done,” he said.

The native of Glen Dale said the local residents are resilient and determined to rebuild. He said volunteers are everywhere helping out. But what the victims of the widespread destruction need most right now is money.

Paisley is hoping to raise $1 million for flood-recovery efforts and has given $100,000 of his own money toward that cause. His crowdfunding campaign has raised an additional $193,000 as of Thursday afternoon after being launched a day earlier.

When asked if a benefit concert is planned, Paisley said not yet. But it’s something he could envision later to sustain attention on the state.

“We’re focused on trying to get money and the necessary resources here,” he said. “In my mind we’re kind of toying with the idea. That to me comes later. And I don’t know how much later. The most inappropriate thing I can think of right now is to set up and play music in this spot.”

Paisley said he embraces the role of ambassador to his native state, which sees its share of negative publicity.

“I definitely do,” he said. “This is pretty close to home if you live in Appalachia. We’re all neighbors and we’re all similar people.”

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