Jun 24, 2016

At least 18 dead as historic floods sweep West Virginia

Greenbrier, WV United States
by
Doug Stanglin and Doyle Rice
,
USA Today
Debris from the Jordan Creek near Clendenin, W.Va., piles up against a culvert along U.S. 119 on June 23, 2016, before the creek's entry into the Elk River. Photo: Chris Dorst, Charleston Gazette, via AP
Debris from the Jordan Creek near Clendenin, W.Va., piles up against a culvert along U.S. 119 on June 23, 2016, before the creek's entry into the Elk River. Photo: Chris Dorst, Charleston Gazette, via AP

At least 18 people, including an 8-year-old boy who was wading in a foot of water, died in massive floods in West Virginia from a storm system that has dumped an historic amount of rain in parts of the state, state officials said Friday.

As much as 8-10 inches of rain fell in six to eight  hours in parts of West Virginia, the National Weather Service said. This amount of rain in such a short time is likely a "one-in-a-thousand-year event," the weather service said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told reporters Friday that damage is widespread and devastating. Saying search and rescue missions are still a top priority, Tomblin issued a state of emergency for 44 counties and deployed 150 members of the National Guard to help emergency responders.

He said at least 14 people have died in the flooding that swamped towns, inundated a two-century old resort and trapped 500 people in a shopping center when a bridge was washed out.

Other people were unaccounted for, so the death toll could rise.

Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill described "complete chaos" in his county from the flooding, according to the Associated Press.

He said roads were destroyed, bridges out, homes were burned down and washed off foundations. He said multiple sections of highway were missing, and water rescue teams searched devastated areas.

Chris Stadelman, the governor's communication director, said some areas were “probably looking at flooding that’s going to be the worst in 100 years." Tens of thousands of people were without power, and several roads were impassable, the Associated Press reported