West Virginia officials have confirmed the total number of deaths due to the floods that first struck on 23 June now stands at 25 (note: this figure was later revised downwards to 23 by officials after 2 missing people had been found alive). The rising death toll has made the current flood disaster in West Virginia one of the worst on record. President Obama has declared a federal disaster for the severely-impacted regions.
Torrential rain of up to 10 inches (254mm) in some areas fell between 23 and 24 June, causing river levels to rise dramatically. The National Weather Service at Charleston have warned of further heavy rain for Monday 27 June, increasing the flood risk in areas where ground is already saturated.
The hardest hit counties are Greenbrier, Nicholas, Kanawha and Webster, although other counties have significant localized damage. Disaster management officials in the state are still carrying out damage assessments. It was initially feared that around 100 homes had been severely damaged or destroyed. However this figure now appears to be on the conservative side. In Roane County alone, not one of the worst hit areas and a county where damage assessments are at a more advanced stage, it is believed that over 500 homes are severely damaged or destroyed. Some reports and images from the disaster struck areas show many homes that have been ripped from their foundations by flood water.
At one point, more than 58,000 homes were without power. By Sunday 26 June, that figure still stood at over 17,000. West Virginia Division of Highways reported over 60 road closures.
Search and Rescue Teams teams are still conducting searches for people trapped inside buildings. West Virginia National Guard has around 300 troops on the ground to assist with search and rescue and clear up operations.
Federal Disaster Declared
On Saturday, 25 June, West Virginia Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, announced his request for a Federal Disaster Declaration has been granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist West Virginians after extreme flooding on Thursday and Friday.
The declaration will provide individual assistance, which includes emergency medical support, housing and addresses a number of immediate needs, to residents in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Damage assessments continue in many areas, including Clay, Fayette, Monroe, Ritchie, Summers and Webster counties, and additional requests may be submitted to FEMA.
“This federal support will provide much needed assistance to severely-impacted regions,” Gov. Tomblin said. “As emergency response efforts continue, with members of the National Guard and local emergency responders hard at work helping our neighbors, we will continue pursuing additional assistance for all affected areas.”
Two Months of Rain in 24 Hours
Up to 10 inches (254 mm) of rain fell in 24 hours between 23 and 24 June. National Weather Service at Charleston say that much of the rain fell in a short space of time. Charleston, the state capital, would normally expect to see 109 mm during the whole of June, according to WMO figures.
The heavy rain falling on the steep mountain slopes soon reached rivers in the area, which then sent torrents of water through nearby towns, destroying homes and businesses.
The Greenbrier River at Alderson and Hilldale, Elk River at Queen Shoals and Gauley River at Camden-on-Gauley all exceeded major flood stage levels.
River levels have since returned to normal, at least for the time being. However, NWS Charleston issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of central West Virginia late yesterday, 26 June. NWS says that “heavy rain producing thunderstorms today and this evening, combined with recent rains, could cause flash flooding. Streams may rise rapidly coming out of their banks causing flooding of roads and property.”
Red Cross Relief Work and Appeal
There are almost 20 Red Cross and community shelters open across the affected counties where hundreds of people are taking refuge from the flooding. Red Cross workers are providing meals, relief supplies and other assistance to those affected as well as meals for first responders. Red Cross disaster mental health workers are helping people cope. Health workers are helping to replace needed items like prescription medications and eyeglasses. The Red Cross is monitoring the situation and working with state and local officials and partners to help ensure people get the help they need.
“Our volunteers are helping people affected by the wildfires out west and the terrible flooding in West Virginia,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president, Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. “We have more than 400 Red Cross workers helping now and are monitoring the situations with local and state officials to make sure people get the help they need.”
This is a large relief response and the Red Cross has requested the public’s support. Find out how to donate here.
PGA Golf Tournament Cancelled
PGA TOUR and Greenbrier Resort officials announced on 25 June that The Greenbrier Classic, scheduled for 07 to 10 July, has been cancelled due to the devastating flooding.
The Old White TPC in Greenbrier County, host course for the tournament, suffered extensive damage from the flooding and is beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament TOUR officials said.
“We are heartbroken by the devastation that the residents of West Virginia are experiencing at this time and the reports of lives lost due to the terrible flooding,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “Cancelling The Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
“All of our focus needs to be on helping all of the people of our great State. So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go,” said Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier.
— The Greenbrier (@The_Greenbrier) June 24, 2016
Severe flooding in parts of West Virginia has prompted Governor Early Ray Tomblin to declare a state of emergency for 44 counties in the state on 23 June 2016.
According to that declaration, the counties affected by the floods in West Virginia are:
Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton , Pleasants , Pocahontas , Preston , Putnam , Raleigh , Randolph , Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming.
B - Nicholas County
C - Kanawha County
D - Webster County
Greenbrier county - June 23 to July 24, 2016
Elk River at Queen Shoals - June 24 to June 24, 2016
Gauley River at Camden-on-Gauley - June 23 to June 23, 2016
Highest recorded at the time. The previous high was 27.38 feet on the 04 July, 1932.
Elk River at Clay - June 23 to June 23, 2016