Everyone has been found after reports of more than 40 people missing in a rural Virginia county inundated by a torrential downpour that tore homes from their foundations and damaged roads and bridges.
Crews worked overnight and through the morning in the flooded areas to help locate the 44 people who had been reported missing, Buchanan County Sheriff Chief Deputy Eric Breeding said in a news conference Thursday.
“We are happy to report that zero people are unaccounted for in the impact area,” Breeding said. “We’re also happy to report we are at zero fatalities.”
Six inches of rain in just hours Tuesday caused extensive damage in the western Virginia county, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said. “Combined with the fact that the area is mountainous, rainfall is able to collect quickly, and dangerous runoff occurred,” he said.
The “monumental” search effort for missing persons in Buchanan County covered about 30 miles and 400 structures, Virginia Department of Emergency Management search and rescue specialist Billy Chrimes said.
The state used six teams to assist, according to Chimes. Multiple search operations are ongoing, Chrimes said, “just to make sure that we don’t have anybody else out there.”
Those search efforts are expected to be wrapped up by sometime Thursday afternoon, he added.
The storm was swift and overwhelming, with widespread flooding and road closures reported in just a few hours. Radar estimates indicate 6 inches of rain fell in about four hours starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, corresponding with a rain event with a 1-in-1,000 chance of happening in a given year.
“We were sitting at this post office over here, and the next thing you know, the house is floating on down through there. We thought it was going to wash off. Two of the houses washed off,” resident Seth Owens told CNN affiliate WCYB.
Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency to help with recovery efforts.
As searches continue, the forecast Thursday and Friday calls for sun, with high temperatures in the lower to mid-80s, ahead of a slight chance of rain Saturday that increases Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The damaging storm was among several that lingered Tuesday night over the county and parts of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.
This region of Appalachia is among those most prone to