Virginia flooding - live: All missing in Buchanan County accounted for as photos show intense destruction

·7-min read

All people have now been accounted for and more than 100 homes have been damaged after flooding caused by torrential rains swept through a rural county in Virginia.

The disaster occurred overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning in Buchanan County.

More than a dozen search-and-rescue teams have been dispatched in and around the small community of Whitewood, Buchanan county chief deputy sheriff Eric Breeding said at a briefing.

On Wednesday, over 40 people had initially been reported missing in the rural area, with little cell service and power outages that could make contact difficult. No deaths have been reported and only flood-related injury – a snakebite – was noted.

Key Points

Virginia Governor declares a state of emergency

13:29 , Louise Boyle

Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in response to the severe flooding in the area.

“As we continue to assess the situation, I want to thank our first responders and the personnel on the ground for providing assistance with our ongoing operations in Buchanan County. While rescue and recovery continues, please join me in prayer as we lift up our fellow Virginians impacted by this tragedy,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Flash flooding wreaks havoc

13:36 , Louise Boyle

Buchanan County and nearby Tazewell County in Virginia received 3-7 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, the National Weather Service reported on Tuesday night.

Heavy thunderstorms also led to flash flooding late on Tuesday along the Little Pigeon River in eastern Tennessee, AP reported.

That flooding prompted the evacuation of more than 400 people from a campground.

No injuries were reported in the Tennessee flooding, but vehicles and debris from the Greenbrier Campground were washed downstream by floodwaters, Sevier County Assistant Mayor Perrin Anderson told news outlets.

Images emerge after catastrophic flooding overnight in rural area of state

13:46 , Louise Boyle

Damage from flooding is shown in the Whitewood community of Buchanan County, Virginia early on Wednesday (AP)
Damage from flooding is shown in the Whitewood community of Buchanan County, Virginia early on Wednesday (AP)

Infrastructure buckles, homes badly damaged after flash flooding

14:06 , Louise Boyle

Search-and-rescue teams were being hampered by roadways blocked by landslides and approaches to bridges that are washed out, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Video footage from the scene showed small homes that had been lifted off their foundations, and others choked with mud and debris.

Hundreds of homes had lost power in the area. Some 2,773 customers were without power in Virginia on Wednesday morning, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages in real-time.

14:22 , Ethan Freedman

The Virginia State police have reported via a tweet that 25 people had been located overnight, 17 still to be found with no reports of injuries or deaths.

Flash flooding could get worse with the climate crisis

14:40 , Ethan Freedman

The flooding in southwest Virginia came on within hours, as heavy rainfall doused the region.

These kinds of events could get more common as the planet heats up from greenhouse gas emissions – a recent study has found that warmer temperatures could lead to storms that dump more and more water all at once, increasing the risk of flash flooding across many parts of the US.

14:41 , Ethan Freedman

Why US floods are getting ‘flashier’

Photos show heavy flooding in southwest Virginia

14:51 , Ethan Freedman

Images show overflowing of the Dismal Creek running through the small community of Pilgrim’s Knob in Buchanan County, Virginia after intense rainfall

Homes reported to have ripped out of their foundations

15:08 , Ethan Freedman

A displaced home sits over mud and a car in Whitewood, Virginia on Thursday, the result of dangerous flooding (AP)
A displaced home sits over mud and a car in Whitewood, Virginia on Thursday, the result of dangerous flooding (AP)

Flooding hits rural, mountainous area

15:24 , Ethan Freedman

A photo shows the inside of a church upended after flooding in Whitewood, Virginia. This area of the state, in the far southwest, borders Kentucky and West Virginia, in a rural section of the Appalachian Mountains.

A church on Thursday, shown with water damage and seats strewn over the floor after flooding in Buchanan County (AP)
A church on Thursday, shown with water damage and seats strewn over the floor after flooding in Buchanan County (AP)

Department of Transportation says some roads are still impassable

15:29 , Ethan Freedman

At least three state roads in Buchanan County, Virginia remained undriveable as of Thursday morning

Why US floods overall are getting ‘flashier’

15:32 , Ethan Freedman

Virginia flooding: Why US floods overall are getting ‘flashier’

Rescue team describes immense devastation

15:44 , Ethan Freedman

Reporting from the Bristol Herald Courier describes some of the terrifying scenes rescue workers encountered while repsonding to floods.

Houses were “completely gone”, with cars in rivers and bridges torn apart, Biston Fire Department captain Gary Russell told paper.

People were often left without power, telephone, cell service, water or a way to leave, he added.

The location is also very rural, and in the dense Appalachian Mountains, making communication harder.

Senator offers sympathies

16:01 , Ethan Freedman

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat, offered his sympathies for communities affected by flooding and gratitude to first responders via a tweet on Thursday.

Three people still unaccounted for

16:15 , Ethan Freedman

Another update on Thursday morning has dropped the number of people still missing after flooding in rural Virginia to three people, state police say. Over 40 people had been reported missing by Wednesday night.

Across the ocean, a community remembers another devastating flood

16:45 , Ethan Freedman

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeiner are visiting the Ahr valley on Thursday to mark the one year anniversary of flooding that devastated that area, the Associated Press reports.

Flooding also hit parts of nearby Belgium, and that country’s King Phillippe and Queen Mathilde visited with survivors and relatives of victim’s on Thursday.

A home with damage from last year’s flooding still visible near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany this week (EPA)
A home with damage from last year’s flooding still visible near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany this week (EPA)

Over 230 people had died after intense rain caused heavy flooding to sweep though.

16:59 , Ethan Freedman

Destroyed cars are covered in debris from flooding and rain (AP)
Destroyed cars are covered in debris from flooding and rain (AP)

No one left unaccounted for, no deaths, sheriff said

17:08 , Ethan Freedman

During a press conference on Thursday at noon, Buchanan County Chief Deputy Eric Breeding said that no one was left unaccounted for, and no fatalities have been reported.

Damage assesment to come, official says

17:17 , Ethan Freedman

Most people who were unaccounted for didn’t have a way to contact the outside world, an official from the Department of Emergency Management said a press conference on Thursday. He added that a full damage assessment of properties is still yet to come.

Only one injury has been reported

17:21 , Ethan Freedman

There has only been one flood-related injury, Buchanan County Chief Deputy Eric Breeding said at a press conference, a snake bite. No deaths have been reported, and all people have now been accounted for.

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