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Raging Floods in Virginia Destroy More Than 100 Homes, All 44 People Reported Missing Found

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Published: July 15, 2022
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Following Tuesday’s heavy rains, the western Virginia area was washed out by flash floods, destroying more than 100 homes and causing 44 people to go missing. Eventually, rescuers were able to find the missing people. (Image: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

On July 13, raging floods surged through a remote corner of western Virginia, damaging or destroying more than 100 homes. It was originally reported that upwards of 44 people were missing; however, following an intense search, every single missing person was found alive.

On Wednesday, authorities originally feared the worst after being inundated with calls from people searching frantically for their loved ones 

However by Thursday, rescuers reported that everyone was found after crews worked all night to locate them, according to Buchanan County Sheriff Chief Deputy Eric Breeding.

“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.”

Beginning on Tuesday, July 12, heavy rains, measuring up to 4 to 6 inches of water, poured down on western Virginia, causing flash floods in Buchanan County, resulting in power outages and road and infrastructure damage, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said.

The National Weather Service sent out a flash flood warning at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, two hours before reports of the floods came.

“Combined with the fact that the area is mountainous, rainfall is able to collect quickly, and dangerous runoff occurred,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said. 

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“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.

Dominick Fragoso, a resident in Whitewood, told CNN how the water “rose to his kneecaps.”

“One of our neighbors’ driveways completely collapsed and fell down the mountain and fell down the creek,” Fragoso said. 

The Greenbrier Campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was hit by the storms, forcing more than 400 people to be evacuated on Wednesday, as more than 9 inches of rain descended on the area, Perrin Anderson, assistant mayor for governmental affairs in Sevier County, said. 

“Debris and vehicles washed downstream in the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River from the campground,” Anderson said.

According to officials, with roadways clogged by landslides and bridges being washed out, search-and-rescue efforts were being blocked.

The floods prompted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to declare a state of emergency.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that another flood has impacted a community still recovering from last year’s flood,” he said in a statement. “In the wake of the devastation, I want Virginians in Buchanan County to know that we are making every resource available to help those impacted by this storm.”

Youngkin extended his gratitude to the rescuers being sent to assist the needy, ABC News wrote. 

“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.”

Billy Chrimes, a search and rescue specialist with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, told CNN that it would “take time” to help repair and restore access to the affected areas.