From 2001 to 2004, West Virginia was ravaged repeatedly by fierce flooding that caused $1.5 billion in damage. Collectively, the floods were one of the worst (and most underreported) natural disasters in U.S. history. Logging and mining appear to have played a major role in worsening the effects of the flooding by eroding the soil and making storm runoff more intense. Now the first round of lawsuits is finally making its way to court, as Juliet Terry reports.

One difficulty facing plaintiffs is untangling the complexities of all the responsible companies (there are 169 named in the case) and their subsidiaries. Stuart Calwell, lead plaintiffs' counsel, told Terry that "coal companies (for example) have myriad names in doing business...It's one of the tactics we've encountered."

(Thanks to Penny Loeb, whose "Deluge without End," a remarkable diary of the four years of devastating floods in West Virginia, appears in the print version of the latest issue of Southern Exposure.)