State of Emergency: Numerous Appalachian Counties Suffering Intense Flooding

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PHOTO: Water rescue in Wise County, Courtesy of Wise County Sheriff's Office

PHOTO: Water rescue in Wise County, Courtesy of Wise County Sheriff’s Office

Multiple local governments in the Commonwealths of both Virginia and Kentucky have declared a local state of emergency following days of steady rain which have led to what is being described as “intense” flooding in many of the two states’ mountain communities.

Across the border in neighboring West Virginia, emergency officials say that water levels are already above flood stage in many of the tributaries of the Tug and Big Sandy River.

According to the National Weather Service, “At 12:53 a.m., emergency management officials [in West Virginia] have reported flooding across the warned area. Many creeks and streams are out of their banks and continue to rise rapidly and several roads are now closed due to high water. Water continues to rise at the Dry Fork of the Tug Fork in Bradshaw, which remains above flood stage. Almost three inches of rain has already fallen and moderate to heavy rainfall will continue into this morning. Flooding will only become worse as rainfall persists overnight.”

PHOTO: Floyd County, Kentucky, courtesy of John Allen
PHOTO: Floyd County, Kentucky, courtesy of John Allen

Virginia Delegate Todd Pillion, stated, “I have spoken with Governor Northam tonight. He is aware of the ongoing flooding situation in Southwest Virginia. VDEM [Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management] will respond to any and all requests. They are in the process of deploying resources, including a swift water rescue team…”

In Wise County, Virginia, the local sheriff’s office announced that a local emergency had been declared as of 10 p.m. Saturday.  There, sheriff’s office officials say that a shelter was opened at 11:00 p.m. at Union High School cafeteria for the Big Stone Gap, Appalachia, and Norton areas.

“Weather forecast shows the possibility of an additional 2 or more inches of rain. If you are in low lying areas susceptible to flooding please keep alert of your surroundings,” stated information officers for Wise County.

Elsewhere in Wise County, which borders eastern Kentucky, a water rescue had to be performed in Powell Valley area. “Subject attempted to drive a vehicle through a flooded roadway and the water pushed the vehicle into the river,” stated law enforcement officials, who warn, “Please do not drive through any flooded roadway. The driver of this vehicle was uninjured.”

In nearby Buchanan County, Virginia, which borders both Kentucky and West Virginia, a representative of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the flood gates to Grundy, Virginia, have been closed.

Across the mountain in Kentucky, the Harlan County Judge Executive Dan Mosley has declared a state of emergency.

In a Facebook post, Mosley stated, “Moments ago, I declared a state of emergency due to the widespread flooding we are experiencing. Creeks and streams started overflowing… As of now, rivers throughout our county are starting to overflow their banks as well.  My advice to you is if you do not have to be out, don’t get out. If you live near a river, keep a watchful eye out. Don’t risk your life by staying in your home if you are about to be flooded. Seek higher ground immediately if you are in a flood prone area. The rivers are going to continue to rise through the night. The Courthouse is open right now if you need a place to go and we are working on an additional shelter as well. Call 911 if you cannot get out of your home and are flooding. County, city, and state crews are working hard to preserve life and property as is our dedicated emergency personnel. Keep them all in your prayers.”

Already this week, in the Southwest Virginia locality of Smyth County, a vehicle was swept away by high water and a woman lost her life.

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