Officials in southwestern Virginia say dozens of people are missing and that over 100 homes have likely been damaged as a result of devastating flooding in rural Buchanan County.
As water levels rose overnight and early Wednesday morning, first responders from across southwest and central Virginia, including swift water rescue teams, flocked to the area.
The National Weather Service office in Charleston, West Virginia, issued a flash flood warning for parts of West Virginia and Virginia on Tuesday, warning of severe thunderstorms in the area.
On Wednesday, Gov. Glenn Younkin declared a state of emergency in response to the severe flooding.
According to Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Eric Breeding, no deaths have been reported as a result of the flooding.
The sheriff’s office said later Wednesday that authorities were looking into reports of 44 people who were missing in southwest Virginia.
“This does not mean the person is missing; it simply means that we are attempting to contact and locate the person in order to check on their well-being,” the sheriff’s office said in a social media post.
The storm caused “significant flooding” and damage to “well over 100” homes, according to Billy Chrimes, a search and rescue specialist with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. According to poweroutage.us, hundreds of households in Buchanan County were also without power on Wednesday.
Crews continued to survey the damage Wednesday, according to Chrimes, who added that landslides and poor road conditions were causing problems for the 18 search and rescue teams that responded to the flooding.
Several roads in the area have been closed due to flooding, according to Breeding, who advises residents to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. According to him, a family reunification center and emergency shelter have been established at a nearby elementary and middle school.
“We would like to ask everyone to please pray for this area,” Breeding said. “Please pray for those who have been affected by the flooding.”
Youngkin said on Twitter that the flooding in Buchanan County had left him “deeply saddened.”
“We are mobilizing all available resources to assist those affected,” he said. “Please join me in prayer as we lift up our fellow Virginians impacted by this tragedy while rescue and recovery operations continue.”
The flooding comes less than a year after Buchanan County was severely flooded by the remnants of a hurricane in September 2021, which washed away homes and killed one person.