Everyone reported missing found alive after flash flood destroys over 100 homes in rural Virginia

Officials said they believe the flooding to be more widespread than the flooding that impacted the region in 2021

BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. – Authorities said everyone reported missing after a flash flood swept away homes in a mountainous region of western Virginia has been accounted for Thursday, and no deaths were reported.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and rescue crews went door-to-door in the area around Pilgrims Knob in search of victims after storms dumped heavy rain on the region Tuesday, resulting in a rapid rise of the local river Tuesday night. Crews were out all night and into the morning Thursday trying to reach out to those in the area that were reported missing. The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office said as many as 40 people were feared missing at one point.

"They were all located," said Chief Deputy Eric Breeding, of the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said their immediate need at this time is cleaning supplies such as mops, buckets and shovels. These items can be taken directly to the Twin Valley Elementary School in Oakwood, Virginia. Monetary donations to support the community with the recovery can be made to the United Way online at unitedwayswva.charityproud.org.

Currently, there are three road closures in the Whitewood area. Routes 628, 635 and 715 will be closed for an extended period of time because of a damaged bridge in the area. 

"We do anticipate the other roads to be cleared out, hopefully by the end of the day, or at least within the next day or two," Breeding said.

Cleanup and damage assessments are expected to happen over the next several weeks. Virginia State Police and the Buchanan County deputies will be patrolling these areas regularly to stop any looting.

"Many, many homes (are) not only damaged, a lot are completely destroyed. A lot are no longer there. They have been washed down the river gone," Buchanan County Sheriff John McClanahan said.

Officials believe more than 100 homes were either damaged or destroyed by the flooding. Crews had difficulty accessing the hardest hit areas because of mudslides and blocked roadways. 

A witness told FOX Weather that homes were swept more than 300 feet off foundations and the area looked like a war zone.


"Once I had gotten down into there, I could see the gravity of the whole situation. At least from where I parked, four homes were completely swept off of their foundations," storm chaser Billy Bowling told FOX Weather. "It was quite devastating to walk around."

Due to the devastation, Virginia's governor declared a State of Emergency on Wednesday to free up funds and resources for the hardest hit areas.

Thousands of customers were without power in the region, and officials urged residents to boil water before consuming it.

An emergency shelter was opened at a local elementary school for flood victims to reunite with loved ones.

A hotline has been set up for residents to report missing family members. The phone number is 1-833-748-1424.

Radar estimated more than five inches of rain fell in the area around Jewell Ridge, quickly inundating several creeks.


"The topography of this area is very tall mountains, and they drop sharply into little valleys and hollows, in these communities that kind of live at the bottom of those hollows," Bowling said. "They basically become a lake waiting to happen when we have big instances like this."

Rural areas near the Kentucky-West Virginia border have a history of seeing significant flooding when rain events train over the region for hours.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of a flood reduction project to lessen the threat to homes and businesses in the county.

The weather system that triggered the flash flooding also caused widespread wind damage in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Damaging wind gusts of more than 80 mph caused trees to topple onto houses and blocked roadways.

During the height of the storms, more than 300,000 customers were without power.

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