All residents reported missing were found by Thursday after floodwaters inundated a southwestern Virginia county, washing away houses and damaging more than 100 homes.
Authorities initially investigated reports of 44 people unaccounted for, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Eric Breeding said at a Wednesday news conference.
All residents previously unaccounted for were found after crews searched for them Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Breeding said at a Thursday news conference.
No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of the devastating flooding in Buchanan County, Virginia State Police said Thursday.
The search effort
Eighteen search and rescue teams from across southwest and central Virginia responded to the flooding, working overnight and overcoming treacherous road conditions due to flooding and landslides, Billy Chrimes, search and rescue specialist from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said.
“This was a monumental search effort,” Chrimes said at a Thursday news conference.
The search spanned 30 miles of roadways and about 400 structures, Chrimes said. Much of it involved locating people who, without power and cell service, were unable to communicate with loved ones to let them know they were OK, he said.
What caused the flooding
The flooding was caused by heavy rains due to thunderstorms in the area Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday, the National Weather Service office in Charleston, West Virginia, issued a flash flood warning lasting into early Wednesday for parts of West Virginia and Virginia.
FLOODING IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA:Dozens of people unaccounted for, over 100 homes damaged
Where was the flooding in southwest Virginia?
Much of the flood damage was in Whitewood, an unincorporated community located along the Dismal River with a population of about 500 people.
The flooding was concentrated in the area around Dismal River Road, the sheriff’s office said in a Wednesday statement.
The storm caused “significant flooding” and damage to “well over 100” homes, said Billy Chrimes, search and rescue specialist from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, during Wednesday’s news conference. It also washed some houses away, Chrimes said, and left hundreds of households without power Wednesday.
In some places, mud left from the flooding was 1 to 2 feet deep. A bridge had collapsed, and a home pulled from its foundation was perched on top of a car Thursday morning.
Three roads remained closed Thursday and are expected to be cleared in the next few days, Breeding said, urging people to avoid the area during cleanup efforts. Breeding also thanked outside agencies.
“Without their help, there’s no way we could have pulled this off,” he said. “We don’t have the manpower, the resources.”
Residents left stunned
Seth Owens, a Buchanan County resident, told WCYB News 5 he saw a house floating away as he watched from the post office. Resident Dominick Fragoso told the outlet trees had fallen onto cars and his neighbor’s driveway collapsed and drifted down a creek.
“The roads, if you walk up there, they’re completely destroyed,” he said.
A family reunification center and emergency shelter was set up at a local elementary and middle school, officials said.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin reacts
Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and said he was “deeply saddened” by the flooding.
“We are making every resource available to help those impacted,” he said in a Twitter statement. “While rescue and recovery operations continue, please join me in prayer as we lift up our fellow Virginians impacted by this tragedy.”
The flood comes less than a year after Buchanan County faced serious flooding damage in August 2021 when the remnants of a hurricane hit the area, washing away homes and leaving one person dead.
“It’s like deja vu from the hurricane from last year,” said Virginia State Senator Travis Hackworth at Thursday’s news conference.
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.
Contributing: The Associated Press