West Virginia flooding leaves at least 24 dead

Updated 2:42 AM EDT, Sun June 26, 2016
PHOTO: WCHS
Now playing
01:17
At least 23 dead in West Virginia flooding
Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
PHOTO: Mic Smith/AP
Now playing
00:57
How to prepare for a hurricane
IN SPACE - In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23. (Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23. (Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images)
PHOTO: NASA
Now playing
01:07
Why hurricanes are so hard to predict
PHOTO: Courtesy Amy Lloyd
Now playing
01:06
Why flash floods are so dangerous
Now playing
01:26
Hurricanes: What you don't know
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 07:  Lightning strikes during a thunderstorm on July 7, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The monsoon storm dropped heavy rain and hail in parts of the valley causing street flooding and power outages.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 07: Lightning strikes during a thunderstorm on July 7, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The monsoon storm dropped heavy rain and hail in parts of the valley causing street flooding and power outages. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
01:36
How to protect yourself from lightning
how hurricanes are named orig_00002729.jpg
how hurricanes are named orig_00002729.jpg
Now playing
01:38
How are hurricanes named?
Now playing
01:21
What is a polar vortex?
PHOTO: Franck Verdière/Twitter
Now playing
01:10
What 'rapid intensification' means for storms
A plea for help on a New Orleans rooftop, days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005.
A plea for help on a New Orleans rooftop, days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005.
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:14
Top five costliest hurricanes in US history
Storm chasing photographers take photos underneath a rotating supercell storm system in Maxwell, Nebraska on September 3, 2016. Although multiple tornado warnings were issued throughout the area, no funnel cloud touched down. / AFP / Josh Edelson / XGTY
RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE  / MANDATORY CREDIT:  "AFP PHOTO / Josh EDELSON" / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS /  DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS  ==        (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Storm chasing photographers take photos underneath a rotating supercell storm system in Maxwell, Nebraska on September 3, 2016. Although multiple tornado warnings were issued throughout the area, no funnel cloud touched down. / AFP / Josh Edelson / XGTY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / MANDATORY CREDIT: "AFP PHOTO / Josh EDELSON" / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS / DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
00:59
The difference between a tornado watch and a warning
DODGE CITY, KS - MAY 24: A tornado is seen south of Dodge City, Kansas moving north on May 24, 2016 in Dodge City, Kansas. About 30 tornadoes were reported on Tuesday in five different states from Michigan to Texas. Damage to homes and property was also reported in Ford County, Kansas. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
DODGE CITY, KS - MAY 24: A tornado is seen south of Dodge City, Kansas moving north on May 24, 2016 in Dodge City, Kansas. About 30 tornadoes were reported on Tuesday in five different states from Michigan to Texas. Damage to homes and property was also reported in Ford County, Kansas. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Brian Davidson/Getty Images
Now playing
01:41
How to prepare for severe weather
weather storm chaser convergence nccorig_00010423.jpg
weather storm chaser convergence nccorig_00010423.jpg
Now playing
06:39
Traffic puts tornado chasers' lives in danger
Now playing
01:20
A 'dry' monsoon? They're more common than you think.
ring of fire chad myers weather orig_00003221.jpg
ring of fire chad myers weather orig_00003221.jpg
Now playing
01:13
What is the 'Ring of Fire'?
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China's Shandong province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:14
What NOT to do in a heat wave

Story highlights

It is the deadliest U.S. flash flooding in six years

The PGA cancels its July tournament at The Greenbrier

(CNN) —  

David Ross said his family moved valuables upstairs when the floodwaters started coming through the floor grates in his house.

“We ran out of time,” Ross told CNN on Saturday. “We couldn’t get everything up, and when the water started coming into the house, it didn’t stop until we had almost four feet of water on my main floor, and it’s never been that way.”

Ross said the flooding was the worst he’s seen in his 39 years in West Virginia.

“It was so fast,” he said. “The rain was relentless.”

Rescue crews worked steadily on Saturday to answer emergency calls from residents stranded by fast-moving floodwaters that state officials say have killed at least 24 people. It’s the nation’s highest death toll from flash floods since May 2010, when 27 people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Heavy rain battered much of West Virginia earlier this week, with as much as 10 inches of rain falling in a brief period Thursday. Water poured out of creeks and rivers, prompting scores of rescue calls.

The high waters were receding Saturday, but officials, such as those in Kanawha County, are warning people to watch out for “flood debris, downed power lines and downed trees.” CNN meteorologists said no more rain is expected until Monday.

Along with responding to rescue emergencies, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brian Humphreys said deputies were going to pharmacies to get medications for people affected by the flooding.

President Obama called Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Saturday to express sympathy and promise aid. Obama declared West Virginia a disaster area and made expanded funding available for three hard-hit counties: Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas.

Tomblin already activated 200 National Guard members to assist in eight counties and has authorization to activate as many as 300 more, if needed.

The governor declared states of emergency in 44 counties Thursday night. Eleven remaining counties, located in the northern and eastern panhandles, were excluded from the emergency declaration. The communities of Elkview, Clendenin and Frame, located in Kanawha County, were particularly hard hit.

The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) reported 23 deaths, including 15 in Greenbrier County; six in Kanawha County, which includes the capital, Charleston; and one each in Jackson and Ohio counties.

At least two children were killed in the deluge, including a 4-year-old boy who was washed away by floodwaters in Jackson County, officials said.

Homes and infrastructure across the state have been severely damaged or washed away. High terrain along rivers speeded the rapid floodwaters. As of 6:30 a.m., there were 158 emergency rescue calls in Kanawha County, located in the southwestern part of the state, the sheriff’s office said.

In that same county, nearly 500 people were stranded at the Elkview Crossings Mall in Elkview for more than 24 hours starting on Thursday, when rain washed out an access road, officials said. More than 32,000 customers are without power, the DHSEM said.

Friday night, emergency workers finished building a temporary gravel road to allow all those stranded to exit, according to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Chad Agner, 26, said he saw homes and cars swept away in White Sulphur Springs in the southeastern part of the state.

Chad Agner captured photos of the devastating flooding in  White Sulphur Springs on Friday.
Chad Agner captured photos of the devastating flooding in White Sulphur Springs on Friday.

Others saw a home that burned as it floated down Howard’s Creek, having been washed away by floodwaters in the same Greenbrier County town.

“The house in front of where my apartment used to be is turned over. Some houses are totally gone,” Agner told CNN. “My apartment is gone.”

A 1,000-year flood

Weather radar estimates show that more than 10 inches of rain have fallen in portions of Greenbrier County. There is a 1 in 1,000 chance of this type of rainfall happening in any given year, according to the National Weather Service.

Cars submerged in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Cars submerged in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
PHOTO: Credit: Chad Agner

In Kanawha County, the Elkview River crested at 33.37 feet Friday morning, meteorologists said. The river rose more than 27 feet from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, the highest crest since record-keeping began more than 125 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.

Resort under water

Also in White Sulphur Springs, the storms severely impacted The Greenbrier, a luxury resort that was scheduled to host the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic July 7-10.

The PGA announced Saturday that the tournament is canceled because the course was badly damaged.

“We are heartbroken by the devastation the residents of West Virginia are experiencing at this time and the reports of lives lost due to the terrible flooding,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

Chad Agner captured photos of the devastating flooding in his area of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on Friday. His home was washed away by powerful flood waters overnight.
Chad Agner captured photos of the devastating flooding in his area of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on Friday. His home was washed away by powerful flood waters overnight.
PHOTO: Chad Agner/Facebook

Professional PGA golfer Bubba Watson, who was at the resort when the storms hit, shared a photo and video on his Twitter account showing the grounds covered in fast-moving brown water.

Resort owner Jim Justice released a statement saying that their focus is on helping the people, not “the property, the golf course, or anything else.”

CNN’s Azadeh Ansari, Keith Allen, Joe Sutton, Kevin Liptak, Vivian Kuo and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.