USA – State of Emergency Declared After Floods in West Virginia

The Governor of West Virginia, USA, declared a state of emergency for two southern counties after floods from heavy rainfall on 15 August 2022. The city of Charleston recorded 112.8 mm (4.44 inches) of rain in 24 hours on 15 August, with over 42 mm (1.7 inches) of that falling in 1 hour.

Floods in West Virginia after storms on 15 August 2022. Photo: West Virginia Division of Highways

Flooding caused damaged to dozens of homes in Fayette and Kanawha counties. Some residents had to be rescued and evacuated from flooded premises. Roads and bridges were also damaged.

In a statement of 15 August, Governor Jim Justice said he declared the state of emergency “due to excessive rainfall that occurred overnight on Monday, August 15, 2022, which caused significant flooding that damaged over 100 homes, bridges, and roads throughout the counties. The storm also resulted in downed trees, power outages, and disruption to potable water systems. Over 20 people had to be rescued from their homes.”

As part of the declaration, the Governor directed the West Virginia Emergency Management Division to implement the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan as necessary, mobilize appropriate personnel and resources to respond to the emergency, and facilitate the provision of essential emergency services. The West Virginia Emergency Management Division and the West Virginia Division of Highways have started the clean-up process, providing necessary repairs, and aiding residents in need of assistance.

“Crews are assessing damages now,” said Kathy Bowe, Disaster Coordinator. “More information will be available throughout the day as water recedes and crews can see the damage left behind.”

The community of Smithers, situated in both Fayette and Kanawha counties, was among the hardest hit areas, with several feet of mud covering roads, making the area difficult to pass through even for those involved in the clean up.

This is the fourth State of Emergency in the state due to heavy rain and flooding since May this year. The Governor declared a state of emergency for Cabell, Putnam, and Roane counties on 07 May 2022. West Virginia Emergency Management said one person died after being swept away by flood waters in Cabell County.

Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for Mingo County due to a severe weather system that struck the county on 17 June 2022. The storm caused flash-flooding as well as downed trees and power lines, causing road blockages and leaving thousands without power. Earlier one person was reported missing and later found dead after being swept away by flash flooding in Wileyville, Wetzel County, on 14 June 2022.

A further state of emergency was declared after flooding in McDowell County on 12 July 2022, where more than 75 homes, 12 bridges and multiple roads were damaged. The storm also downed trees and power lines and disrupted water systems.

“It’s been a tough six week period,” said Joe Pack, P.E., Deputy State Highway Engineer. “We’ve had one area hit after another, with all the rains we’ve had. Some areas have been hit which don’t typically see high water. For our crews, it has been continuous.”

Neighbouring state of Kentucky saw some of the worst flooding in its history after heavy rain in eastern parts of the state from 27 July 2022. As of 02 August, there were 37 confirmed fatalities.