CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency Sunday night for four eastern mountain counties following significant flash flooding that occurred hours earlier.
Justice said the initial declaration, which will officially be filed Monday, covers Grant, Pendleton, Tucker and Randolph counties, but other counties may be added.
Training thunderstorms caused the flooding, according to the National Weather Service.
The flooding began in Preston County Saturday night and moved south and east into Mineral, Pendleton, Grant, Tucker and Randolph counties Sunday morning, National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Mazza told MetroNews.
“It was moving slowly and it kind of kept back-building,” Mazza said. “You had the western end of the line and the (storm) cells moving east along the line but as the cells moved east new cells would pop up west of there. We call that training.”
Mazza said both the NWS-Charleston and NWS-Pittsburgh offices issued a number of flash flood warnings. He said up to four inches of rain fell in a very short period of time in northeastern Randolph County and five inches in parts of Tucker County.
Mazza said from the photos he’s seen of the damage there’s no doubt it was “a true flash flood.”
“The rain came heavy in a short amount of time. That speaks to the intensity of the rainfall. You get successive runoff from that and we you get that amount of successive runoff the water moves very quickly,” he said.
Gov. Justice was briefed on the flooding Sunday evening. He has directed state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Mike Todorovich to support local counties and to use all state resources necessary. Justice has also directed the National Guard to assist.
The governor’s decision followed a call from a bipartisan group of state lawmakers Sunday to make the declaration.
State Senator Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, along with Senators Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, Randy Smith, R-Tucker, Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, and Delegates Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, John Hott, R-Grant, Terri Sypolt, R-Preston, Buck Jennings, R-Preston and Chris Phillips, R-Barbour, urged the governor to take action.
Boso told MetroNews Sunday afternoon it was difficult to get to some of the flooded areas. He said it would probably be at least Monday before the extent of the damage was known.
“Obviously there have been some roads washed out, which poses some concerns. We have to make sure those transportation facilities are put back into place and functional, so that are emergency first responders can get deeper into the area impacted by this flooding,” Boso said.
A state of emergency will lift some restrictions on state resources needed in the response, the bipartisan group of lawmakers said.
“With the extensive damage caused by the flooding, immediate assistance is imperative for the safety and well-being of our communities,” Delegate Thompson said in a news release. “We request assistance from any available state resources and an emergency declaration from the Governor.”
“It’s vital that the Governor declare a State of Emergency for all of the impacted areas, without haste, so our fellow West Virginians can get the immediate help that they so desperately need,” Delegate Sponaugle said.
Senator Hamilton said the extent of the damage is unclear but the need for help is certain.
“Although it is too early to get a true picture of all the damage and the estimated cost of repairs, it is apparent that it is extensive,” Hamilton said. “Roads and bridges destroyed, homes, schools, farms and businesses damaged. We respectfully request that Governor Justice declare an emergency so we can get help and funds for the people of these counties as soon as possible.”
Senator Smith said he appreciated the work of emergency responders and DOH crews.
“I’m calling on Governor Justice to send immediate help to these areas, especially because they were already experiencing deplorable road conditions before the flood, and the damage has certainly made it worse,” Smith said.