Authorities in a remote corner of southwest Virginia have located all but three of the 44 people who were reported unaccounted for after devastating flooding washed out roadways and damaged more than 100 homes.
Buchanan County Sheriff John McClanahan said Thursday that crews from state and local agencies worked throughout the night to locate and reunite residents with their loved ones. He said there are no reports of injuries or deaths.
First responders in Buchanan County began receiving reports of rising water and damage Tuesday night after a torrential rainstorm in the mountainous area. Several small communities in the Virginia county that borders West Virginia and Kentucky were affected.
County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Eric Breeding said Wednesday that the number of people unaccounted for is based on relatives trying to contact a resident in an area where there may be limited or no phone service.
"It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in trouble or in danger. They’re just letting us know that we need to check on these people," Breeding told reporters.
McClanahan said Thursday that the floodwaters are receding and the county is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation crews to assess damages to homes and to remove debris and mud from the roadways to get them re-opened.
Residents said they were stunned by dramatic flooding that caused mudslides that blocked roads and washed homes off foundations.
"We gathered at my house and we said if it got any higher that, we were just going to start heading up in the mountains to try to get safe, but luckily, thank God, we didn’t have to," Deana Kimbrough told WCYB-TV.
Seth Owens told the station he was among people who sought refuge at a post office and witnessed houses washing away.
"The next thing you know, the house is floating on down through there. … Two of the houses washed off," he said.
In Whitewood, an unincorporated community with a population of about 500, mud left from the flooding was 1 to 2 feet deep in some places. At least one bridge had collapsed, and one home appeared to have been pulled from its foundation and carried across the street, where it was perched on top of a car Thursday morning.