Flash Flooding in West Virginia Prompts Dozens of Water Rescues

Residents of two West Virginia counties were recovering from significant flash flooding that prompted dozens of water rescues early on Monday and destroyed at least two bridges, officials said.

Overnight, brown water rose swiftly in Kanawha and Fayette Counties, uprooting trees, engulfing cars and roads, washing out culverts and damaging at least 100 homes in Kanawha County, just east of Charleston, W.Wa., officials said.

The rain began around 3 a.m. on Monday and two to five inches fell, said Megan Kiebler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

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In Kanawha County, emergency call lines were bombarded with hundreds of requests. Emergency responders conducted 25 water rescues, said Jennifer Herrald, county manager of the Kanawha County Commission.

There were no reports of fatalities or significant injuries in either county.

“We have a lot of mountains and valleys,” Ms. Herrald said. “When we have intense amounts of rain, the creeks rise quickly into those lower areas.”

In neighboring Fayette County, Route 39 outside of Gauley Bridge will remain closed for several hours, Rod Perdue, chief deputy of the county Sheriff’s Department, said Monday morning.

More than 2,000 people in Fayette and Kanawha Counties were without power as of Monday afternoon. The rain had stopped, but creeks had yet to recede, Ms. Kiebler said.

There could be “another round of showers and thunderstorms picking up later on this afternoon,” she said. This pattern of potential afternoon rain and storms continues into this week, she added.

Flash floods are not limited to areas with nearby bodies of water. They can surge anywhere that experiences intense rainfall over a brief period of time.

As the climate warms, researchers expect that flash floods will increase and get “flashier,” resulting in shorter but more intense flooding.

source: nytimes.com