Still grappling with the country’s deadliest flash flooding in years, West Virginia is bracing for another deluge.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash-flood watch for most of West Virginia through Monday evening. Showers and thunderstorms will pummel the state, and heavy rain falling on saturated soil could cause additional flooding, the agency said.
At least 23 people have already died, most of them in Greenbrier County. That toll is down from the 25 fatalities initially reported by authorities. Two campers presumed dead have been accounted for.
It’s the nation’s highest death toll from flash floods since May 2010, when 27 people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.
Houses ripped apart
Clendenin was one of the towns hardest hit by the flooding. Thick, slippery mud coated streets in the town of 1,200 residents, about 30 miles northeast of the state capital, Charleston.
Flash flooding washed a pickup truck into a bog, inundated homes and businesses and pushed a Dairy Queen right out from under its awning, one end of which sat Sunday on the knee-high parking barriers in the burger joint’s parking lot.
Teresa Candler was allowed to return to her home Saturday, or what was left of it. Rooms in the house had been ripped apart, the refrigerator was flipped over and furniture had been tossed about the living room, according to CNN affiliate WSAZ.
Candler and relatives tried to salvage what they could, but even her family photos were covered in mud. Her daughter estimated it could take months to clean up.
“It’s devastating,” Candler told the station. “The last time I looked out I saw the roof of my house and that’s all I’ve seen and it was gone.”
Children among those killed
At least two children were killed in the deluge, including a 4-year-old boy who was washed away by floodwaters in Jackson County, officials said.
Chad Agner, 26, said he saw homes and cars swept away in White Sulphur Springs.
Others saw a home that burned as it floated down Howard’s Creek, having been washed away by floodwaters in the same Greenbrier County town.
“The house in front of where my apartment used to be is turned over. Some houses are totally gone,” Agner told CNN. “My apartment is gone.”
Also in White Sulphur Springs, the storms severely impacted The Greenbrier, a luxury resort that was scheduled to host the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic July 7-10. The PGA canceled the tournament because of heavy damage to the resort’s golf course.
‘We ran out of time’
David Ross, whose family was forced to haul its valuables upstairs when floodwaters filled the home, said it’s the worst flooding he’d seen in the state in almost four decades.
“We ran out of time,” Ross said Saturday. “We couldn’t get everything up, and when the water started coming into the house, it didn’t stop until we had almost 4 feet of water on my main floor. And it’s never been that way.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told CNN he lived his entire life in West Virginia, and he’d never seen water rise this high so quickly. The priority now, he said, is locating the missing, restoring power and infrastructure, and making certain those in need of help receive it.
But some of those residents accepting federal assistance may be forced to relocate.
“To get assistance, they’re gonna have to move out,” Manchin said. “They can’t rebuild back or be in the same area where it could happen again.”
Power still out
As of Monday morning about 8,800 customers had no electricity, the area’s two main power providers said. Appalachian Power, which serves the Charleston area, said it must make repairs to its infrastructure before it can restore electricity. .
The flooding inundated at least two substations and destroyed an access road.
State of emergency
President Barack Obama declared West Virginia a disaster area and made expanded funding available for three hard-hit counties: Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas. Sen. Manchin said he expected that list to grow.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has called in 300 National Guard members to help in eight counties and could activate as many as 200 more.
Among the areas still reeling from the storms are Roane County, where 500 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, Fayette County, which doesn’t anticipate being able to repair its water system until Monday or Tuesday; and Kanawha County, which is continuing its search-and-rescue operations as 90 displaced residents live in temporary shelter.
Social media pages for the state emergency management agency offered links for assistance. And the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is coordinating the delivery of tetanus vaccinations to several counties early this week.