The Heat Is Online

Torrents Indundate Parts of West Virginia

West Virginians brace for more storms, June 17, 2003

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) -- With flood watches in effect and the threat of additional rain looming, emergency officials braced for more rising waters following storms that overwhelmed streams and sewer systems and forced dozens to find refuge on rooftops and in hastily arranged shelters.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries Monday as floodwater rushed down creeks and roads in rural areas of Mingo, Kanawha counties west and north of Charleston, and in Nicholas County to the east.

Parts of Charleston and several rural Kanawha County suburbs suffered the worst of Monday's storms, with more than 50 homes heavily damaged or destroyed. County officials declared a state of emergency.

"Things are bad, but they don't look too bad -- considering," said Kanawha County Emergency Services Director Bill White, who toured the county Monday. Local officials were assessing the damage on Tuesday.

Gov. Bob Wise asked President Bush to designate Kanawha County a disaster area. The designation could spell more financial relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The area is already recovering from heavy rain. Last Wednesday, a storm dumped nearly 21/2 inches of rain on the Charleston area in one hour, resulting in flash flooding that destroyed several houses and forced a nursing home to evacuate.

About 60 residents of the Meadowbrook Nursing Home were moved again Monday because of high water.

Several rugged counties in West Virginia got 2 to 3 inches of rain between midnight and noon Monday. More showers and thunderstorms were expected.

Charleston's hilltop Yeager Airport remained open to flights, but a swollen creek swamped a bridge on the main access road, cutting off travelers for more than two hours, marketing director Brian Belcher said.

Belcher said the airport's conference room became a shelter for several families who had hiked up hillsides ahead of rising water. The Red Cross also set up an emergency shelter.

The same flood that blocked the airport road also swamped a Federal Express depot. At least a dozen workers took refuge on the roof.

A FedEx truck was washed off the airport road bridge. One rescuer had to be rescued himself after the propeller on his boat jammed.

About 5,000 American Electric Power customers in Kanawha County lost electricity, most because of trees falling onto power lines, spokesman Phil Moye said. About 27 Allegheny Power customers in Nicholas County also spent the day without electricity, but by late Monday power was restored, a spokesman said.

Mud left by high water was caked waist-high on buildings along the road. Yvonne Perry, 36, said her parents' house appeared to be "a total loss."

"Their outbuilding has floated away. There's a Jeep in my parents' yard right now that's not theirs," said Perry, whose parents are vacationing in North Carolina.

Perry said she did not know the fate of her own house, which is in the same area, because her street was impassible.

In Nicholas County, mudslides and water closed a highway near Drennen, where several houses and a church were flooded by water up to 6 feet deep. One lane of the road later reopened to traffic.

Several houses and a church in the Drennen area were flooded with up to six feet of water and some vehicles were damaged, said Junior Tucker, secretary of the Keslers Cross Lanes Volunteer Fire Department.