BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) — After floodwaters inundated parts of the county Tuesday night, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday there were still 17 people missing.
Previously, there had been 44 people missing. No deaths were reported Wednesday evening.
The sheriff’s office says it is making progress in locating those whose status was unknown. A person is considered missing when family members have not been able to contact them.
While authorities are still investigating the damage, approximately 100 to 150 residences were flooded or washed away, according to the sheriff’s office.
According to Deputy Chief Eric Breeding, authorities began responding to reports of damage and rising water on Tuesday evening. After the seriousness of the situation became more apparent overnight and throughout the morning, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) was contacted for assistance.
Breeding said as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, search and rescue operations in the Whitewood area of the county were continuing. Roads leading to the area are closed except to emergency personnel, and the public is asked to avoid the area.
A news release from the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) said flooding occurred on Dismal River Road in the communities of Dismal River, Patterson, Hale Creek, Pilgrims Knob, Whitewood and Jewell Valley.
The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) is asking anyone who previously reported a missing person and later found or contacted them to notify the sheriff’s office. Anyone who needs to contact the BCSO hotline to report a missing person is asked to call 833-748-1424.
The VDEM reported that about ten miles of the county sustained significant damage, but was unable to estimate the number of homes or buildings destroyed.
The full Wednesday afternoon press conference can be viewed below:
An emergency shelter has been set up at Twin Valley Elementary School at 9017 Riverside Drive in Oakwood. Those who believe a loved one has gone missing as a result of the flooding can also report it to the school’s Reunification Center.
BCSO Sheriff McClanahan asked that those who call 911 do so only in an emergency.
On Wednesday afternoon, authorities were asking people to refrain from sending unsolicited donations until a full assessment of the situation could be made.
The county has issued a boil water advisory for the communities of Clifton Fork and Whitewood which will remain in effect until further notice. As of Thursday morning, power was restored throughout the Vansant area, according to McClanahan. However, it will be “some time,” he said, before power is restored to areas that have suffered the most damage, such as Oakwood.
Response agencies include the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, several swiftwater rescue teams, fire departments, and EMS agencies from the county and throughout the region.
The Bristol, Va., Fire Department said the agency received a call for help just before midnight on Tuesday, and six crew members with water rescue training arrived at 2 a.m. Wednesday . On Wednesday afternoon, the agency released that it had helped 30 people evacuate their homes. The team expects to remain in the area overnight.
On Thursday morning, however, the Bristol, Va., fire department was seen at the command post, and crews from as far away as Roanoke and Lynchburg joined.
This is a developing story. Stay updated live and online at WJHL.com.
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