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W.Va. Evacuees Return After Floods Kill Two

July 31, 2001|From Associated Press

WHARTON, W.Va. — National Guard troopers, highway crews and others dug through mud and debris Monday as evacuees returned home after the third deadly round of flooding in a month in southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia.

"This is more than just another gusher," West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise said as he visited Boone County, where about 200 homes were damaged.

Two people were killed in Sunday's floods, which swept away mobile homes and left pots, pans, clothes and other items littering the landscape.

The Red Cross opened 16 shelters for evacuees in West Virginia and 13 people had to be rescued by helicopter from an island in the Cheat River.

"We came out with just the clothes on our backs," said Tyrone Pollard of Kistler. "If it wasn't breathing, we left it behind."

About 30 people fled their homes in Virginia's Scott County, on the Tennessee state line. Officials were still adding up the damage.

"It's in the millions. I don't know how many yet, but it's in the millions," said Dan Marston, a district administrator with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

A federal disaster declaration was already in effect for 22 West Virginia counties because of earlier floods and Wise asked that it be extended to two more counties. He activated more than 1,400 National Guard members.

The body of a 3-year-old boy was found in the Tug Fork River outside Davy. The boy had been playing outside his home and was swept into a culvert, a sheriff's investigator said.

In southwest Virginia, 77-year-old Grady Baker was killed Sunday when his mobile home was washed away by Stony Creek. Niece Dorothy Hicks said she was on the phone with Baker's son as he watched his father's house wash away with him trapped inside.

"Stony Creek has no mercy when the water's up," Hicks said. "It's something I'm never going to forget. It's something those children are never going to forget."

Among the communities Wise visited was Clinton Camp, where Rodney Thurmond, 53, was moving wet carpet and furniture into his yard.

"We've had water before, but nothing, not even close, like this," Thurmond said.

About half a mile up the road, sparks flew from exposed wiring in Judy Lambert's destroyed mobile home.

"I'm afraid to stay here. The way the sparks are coming, I don't know if I want to go back in there," Lambert said.

Up to 7 inches of rain drenched many of the same areas of Virginia and West Virginia that were trying to recover from the July 8 floods, which killed two people, destroyed 1,500 homes and damaged more than 4,000 homes. A second round of flooding struck last week.

The latest floods were not as severe as the damage July 8.

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