25 dead in West Virginia floods; search and rescue continues

Jay Bennett, left, and step-son Easton Phillips survey the damage to a neighbors car in front of their home damaged by floodwaters as the cleanup begins from severe flooding in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., Friday, June 24, 2016. A deluge of 9 inches of rain on parts of West Virginia destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left at least 25 people dead, and more rain is expected.

The National Weather Service is telling residents in more than 20 counties to be on the lookout for flash flooding today. Authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for.

Most of the dead and all of the missing, officials believe, were in the county of Greenbrier — home of the renowned golf resort of the same name.

“The reports we got this morning are that Greenbrier County may still have some folks unaccounted for. It does not appear there are unaccounted for people in other counties, but it’s still a somewhat fluid situation,” said Chris Stadelman, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s chief of staff.

Stadelman said there were still “lots of folks in shelters” and that state would apply for federal disaster funds. Scores of homes were damaged.

In this photo released by the The Weather Channel, a vehicle rests on the in a stream after a heavy rain near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, June 24, 2016. Multiple fatalities have been reported in flooding that has devastated parts of the state, a state official said Friday morning. ( Justin Michaels/The Weather Channel via AP)
In this photo released by the The Weather Channel, a vehicle rests on the in a stream after a heavy rain near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, June 24, 2016. Multiple fatalities have been reported in flooding that has devastated parts of the state, a state official said Friday morning. ( Justin Michaels/The Weather Channel via AP)

In one bizarre twist, a woman sustained burns over two-thirds of her body after her deluged house blew up. Belinda Scott of White Sulphur Springs called her husband Ronnie and told him their house was filling up with water. She fled to the attic and waited. She smelled natural gas. Then, the house exploded.

Belinda Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch, then make it onto a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police, her husband told The Associated Press.

“My wife was out there four and a half hours hanging in a tree with a house burning right beside her, flood waters running all around her,” said Scott.

The state Division of Homeland Security reported 15 people killed in Greenbrier County. Other deaths were reported in Kanawha, Jackson and Ohio counties. About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their cars.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in Greenbrier County, where The Greenbrier luxury resort and golf course is nestled in the mountains. The course, overrun by floodwaters, is scheduled to host a PGA tour event from July 4-10. However, resort owner Jim Justice told The Weather Channel Saturday that it would be “a real mistake” to hold the event, given the deaths and damage.

“It would be disrespectful to an awful lot of people” who are suffering, he said.

Jason Bergnoli, left, uses a rope to help Main Street Motors employee Zach Bennet, right, retrieve as many company documents as he can Friday June 24, 2016, in Richwood, W.Va., after the company's building was knocked off its foundation by extensive flooding and hanging off the side of a hill. (Christian Tyler Randolph/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
Jason Bergnoli, left, uses a rope to help Main Street Motors employee Zach Bennet, right, retrieve as many company documents as he can Friday June 24, 2016, in Richwood, W.Va., after the company’s building was knocked off its foundation by extensive flooding and hanging off the side of a hill. (Christian Tyler Randolph/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

Rainelle Mayor Andrea “Andy” Pendleton wept as she surveyed the devastated Greenbrier County town Saturday morning.

“I weep for my people, I weep for the businesses,” she said.

About six buses full of people whose homes were either without power or too damaged to inhabit were evacuated. Some were taken initially to a fire department facility, but then it flooded so they were moved to an abandoned store. When that started to flood, buses took the evacuees to a church 40 miles away.

Search and rescue teams went house to house, marking those checked with a spray-painted ‘X.’ Abandoned pets were taken to a shelter. A water department filtration system, built with a $2.6 million loan, was damaged, Pendleton said.

Help came from multiple sources, including two search and rescue teams from Virginia.

An area near the West Virginia-Virginia border received at least 9 inches of rain while other parts of the state had 3 to 5 inches, National Weather Service hydrologist John Sikora said. A flood warning remains in effect for Greenbrier County until 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Rob Morissin stands among the aftermath of a rockslide caused by severe flooding that poured into a property owned by his family since the 1930's in Richwood, W.Va. on Friday June 24, 2016. (Christian Tyler Randolph/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
Rob Morissin stands among the aftermath of a rockslide caused by severe flooding that poured into a property owned by his family since the 1930’s in Richwood, W.Va. on Friday June 24, 2016. (Christian Tyler Randolph/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

___

Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press writers Claire Galoforo, Dylan Lovan and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, and Steve Helber in White Sulphur Springs contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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