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West Virginians grapple with devastating losses as threat for additional flooding looms

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Following deadly and damaging flooding in West Virginia, the risk of heavy rain and isolated flash flooding and mudslides will increase around Independence Day.

Additional downpours are forecast for West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky on Monday and Tuesday.

Twenty-three people were killed and hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the West Virginia flash floods of June 23-24, 2016. It may take months to fully recover from the destructive flooding.

"Forty-four of the 55 counties in the state have been hit by flooding during the middle of June," according to Jonathan Kott, communications director for Senator Joseph Manchin.

Some of the hardest-hit counties were Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Monroe, West Virginia, where rainfall topped 6 inches in some communities within 24 hours.

Kott stated that the senator's office is still assessing the extent of the number of families displaced and damage from the mid-June floods, while working closely with FEMA to expedite aid.

The rain coming next week will be significant in parts of West Virginia as a storm system moves eastward along a stalled frontal zone.

"An average of 2-3 inches of rain is likely with locally higher amounts, where thunderstorms develop and persist, spanning Monday and Tuesday," according to AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Alexandria Davis.

A significant amount of that rain can occur in a few hours in some locations.

The downpours will bring the potential for isolated flash flooding, especially in the central and northern counties of the state.

Rainfall on the order of 2 inches in three hours or 1.5 to 1.8 inches in one hour is all that is needed to initiate flash flooding over much of the state at this time.

"The greatest concern we have for people on the roads is the potential for additional rockfalls and mudslides," Communication Spokesperson for the West Virginia Division of Highways Carrie Jones said.

The saturated ground has made the steep slopes along many roads unstable. The concern goes well beyond secondary roads.

"During the rain last Thursday and Friday we had a number of mudslides along Interstate 79 and at the height of the storm, 103 roads, including some major highways, were shut down due to flooding, washouts and/or slides," Jones said.

There is also the potential for the shoulders of some secondary roads in mountainous terrain and along streams to give way should heavy rain return.

Motorists are urged to travel with caution and be patient with detours and road closures still in place.

"The road system in West Virginia has a long way to go to get back to normal," Jones said. "Crews are working hard at repairs and dealing with personal loss of their homes and loved ones at the same time."

At least seven bridges were washed out or severely damaged during the recent flooding. Crews were working to replace some of the bridges with temporary spans.

Jones compared the mid-June flooding in West Virginia to the Election Day floods of November 1985.

"Damage from [roads and bridges] in this event is not as extreme, with an early estimate around $30 million," Jones said.

During November 1985, flooding, mainly in West Virginia and Virginia, resulted in $1.4 billion in damage and 62 fatalities. In West Virginia alone, 38 people were killed with damage at $700 million from the 1985 flood.