Killer floods hit WV area

BY PJ HELLER | CHARLESTON, WV | May 3, 2002


Heavy rains caused flash flooding in a three-state region of West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, leaving at least three people dead and more than a dozen missing.

The downpour Thursday, which dumped up to 4 inches of rain in a six-hour period, left rivers spilling out of their banks. At Williamson, W. Va., the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River was expected to crest today at around 45 feet, nearly twice the flood stage of 27 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Floodwaters in eastern Kentucky reached the rooftops of houses.

In some parts of the tri-state five-county area affected, roads were underwater and electricity, telephone, water and sewer service was knocked out. Initial reports said hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed.

The National Guard was activated in Virginia, where a state of emergency was declared by Gov. Mark R. Warner.

A state of emergency was also declared by Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia, where National Guard helicopters were used to pluck stranded residents from their homes.

The flooding in southwest Virginia left one person dead and six others missing. An estimated 200 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to state emergency management officials. The National Guard was called out to assist rescue operations in Buchanan and Tazewell counties. State police, emergency management and state transportation officials were also on the scene.

Hardest hit was the town of Hurley in northern Buchanan County, officials said. Numerous rescues were reported there, including six people from a school bus and a woman and child from a rooftop.

One concern in Buchanan and Tazewell counties was numerous loose tanks containing hazardous materials. It was not immediately known what those tanks contained.

In West Virginia, a state of emergency was declared in McDowell County. Two people died and eight others were reported missing, according to state emergency services officials.

This is the second time since last July the same area has been hit with floods.

In eastern Kentucky, more than 1,000 residents were evacuated today from their homes along the Tug Fork. Water was reported up to the rooftops of homes in the towns of Freeburn and Majestic.


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