Southwest Virginia flooding damages more than 100 homes, prompts rescues in Buchanan County

VIRGINIA — Flooding in a remote pocket of southwest Virginia has damaged more than 100 homes and left about 40 people missing, but there are no confirmed deaths or injuries, authorities said Wednesday.

First responders in Buchanan County received reports of rising water and damage Tuesday night, authorities said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. After daybreak, crews conducted aerial photography to examine the extent of the disaster. Several small communities in Virginia County, which borders West Virginia and Kentucky, were affected, according to the sheriff’s office.

About 40 people – a mix of adults and children – were reported missing, but that number was expected to fall as fast-water rescue teams continued to survey the area, authorities said. An emergency shelter has been set up at a local school.

Eric Breeding, chief of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, said the number of missing people was based on relatives trying to contact a resident in an area that may have no or limited phone service.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in trouble or in danger. They’re just letting us know we need to check on these people,” Breeding told reporters.

A Virginia Department of Emergency Management official said gaining access to the remote area was part of the struggle for search and rescue teams. Many roads are blocked by landslides and approaches to bridges have been washed out, the official said.

“One of our neighbors’ driveways completely collapsed and fell down the mountain and down the creek,” Dominick Fragoso told WCYB television. “The streets, if you go up there, they’re completely destroyed.”

Buchanan County also suffered severe flood damage last year when the remnants of an August hurricane hit the area, washing away homes and killing one person.

Flooding this week was less severe but more widespread, authorities said at the news conference.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency to aid in the response and recovery efforts.

“As we continue to assess the situation, I would like to thank our first responders and staff on the ground for their support with our ongoing operations in Buchanan County. As the rescue and recovery continues, please join me in prayer as we lift up our fellow Virginians affected by this tragedy,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Severe thunderstorms also led to flash flooding along the Little Pigeon River in eastern Tennessee Tuesday night, prompting the evacuation of more than 400 people from a campground. No casualties were reported in the Tennessee flooding, but vehicles and debris from Greenbrier Campground were washed downstream by the floodwaters, Sevier County Deputy Mayor Perrin Anderson told news outlets.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Southwest Virginia flooding damages more than 100 homes, prompts rescues in Buchanan County

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