Gov. Tomblin: Several dead in West Virginia flooding

Published: Jun. 24, 2016 at 2:59 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than a dozen people are dead after flooding in West Virginia, according to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

"Unfortunately, we've dealt with weather emergencies all too often the past several years, so we were prepared to act quickly," Gov. Tomblin said in a press conference Friday.

After issuing a State of Emergency on Thursday for 44 of the state's 55 counties, 200 National Guard members started assisting in search and rescue efforts in eight counties. An extra 500 National Guard members are on standby to assist in the search and cleanup efforts.

Tomblin says he planned to fly around to the areas impacted today, but all state aircrafts are being used to assist in the rescue efforts. However, Tomblin says the weather is hindering the aviation efforts.

"Our biggest challenge continues to be high water," Tomblin says.

At least six counties have received severe flooding, leading to structural damage. He says at least 100 homes have severe damage or have been destroyed.

Rep. Evan Jenkins gave an update on our state’s rivers and dams, including the Bluestone, Summersville and Sutton dams.

“The good news is that we’re reassured that the dams are certainly stable. They are safe and containing the water as designed and that the Corps of Engineers is fully involved with the appropriate release to address the downstream issues, whether it be getting a community out of water and also protecting and making sure that rivers and streams to the extent possible don’t overflow,” he said.

The Corps does not expect the Kanawha River to experience significant flooding, Rep. Jenkins said, a relief for communities along the Kanawha and Ohio rivers.

Tomblin says there will an enormous amount of recovery work in the upcoming days and weeks. "It's been a long 24 hours and the next 24 hours may not be easier," Tomblin said.

Governor Tomblin says the hardest hit areas are Greenbrier, Nicholas, Kanawha and Webster, "Although I can tell by watching the footage, the damage is widespread and devastating."

Top priority areas are Rainelle, Richwood, White Sulphur Springs and Northern Kanawha County.

The latest estimates show 66,000 are still without power across the state. The Governor says in White Sulphur Springs, the natural gas has been shut off and it could take some time to get that back on. The Foresty Division is working on downed trees and there are reportedly 60 road closures across the state.

Highway officials are working to create a gravel road to help 500 people who are stuck in the Elkview plaza after the bridge washed out.

There are 17 shelters open and groups like the Red Cross and Salvation Army are offering assistance. Donations are being accepted through several organizations and churches.

Gov. Tomblin says they don't believe any hospitals have been significantly impacted, several nursing homes have been affected and DHHR is working to help assist the needs of those facilities.

Gov. Tomblin says if you still need assistance, you should call your local emergency management office or 911.

Gov. Tombln says there are already stories of heroic efforts being told from around the area. In Richwood, State Police and local responders were able to rescue a woman who was trapped in her car with water flowing up to her neck.

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