- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A day after record-breaking floods hit Southwest Virginia, local officials tried to assess the damage Monday while many residents remained cut off from their homes and others faced a cutoff of their water supply.
Meanwhile, weather forecasters warned that new storms expected today could deliver an additional inch of rain to the already soggy region.
Most of the hundreds of residents who fled to temporary shelters to escape the rising waters early Monday had returned to their homes by yesterday.
There were no reports of deaths or injuries caused by the flooding, but Scott County officials said they had been unable to track down one family of five by yesterday morning. The officials said they were confident that the missing family had sought shelter with family or neighbors and would turn up soon.
Gov. Mark R. Water called out the National Guard and declared an emergency for Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Washington, Wise, Tazewell and Wythe counties, He ordered up to 100 members of the National Guard to assist with evacuations in the area.
Janet L. Clements, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said Mr. Warner was considering a tour of the flood-damaged region, but his visit might be delayed by the approaching storms.
At the height of the flooding Monday morning, some 600 people sought temporary shelter in Lee County and about 400 in Wise County. Figures were unavailable for the other counties affected by the flooding.
Most of those displaced by the flooding were able to go home by Monday night. But throughout the flood-struck region, some people remained in shelters yesterday , unable to return to houses that were damaged by the flooding or cut off after private bridges washed away.
In Coeburn, officials, residents and emergency workers were finally getting a breather after more than 24 hours of frantic effort.
Yesterday morning, business owners and firemen finished washing the mud out of the Wise County town's main street, said Town Manager Terry L. Gibson. The business owners were turning their attention to cleaning out their stores and offices, which were hit with water and mud to an average depth of 13 inches, Mr. Gibson said.
The inundation hit as the town was in the midst of a $2.4 million revitalization. New facades installed throughout downtown were widely damaged by the flooding, Mr. Gibson said.
Still, the damage could have been much worse, as there apparently were no injuries, he said.
"This hit us at 3 o'clock in the morning. It caught so many people off guard. We had fire and rescue people out there knocking on doors, going out in boats to get people up and get them out of low-lying areas," Mr. Gibson said.
A few families remained at the town's shelter yesterday , with a small number at another shelter across the county in Big Stone Gap, officials said.
In Tazewell County, 42 homes had major damage and another 15 were slightly damaged. In the hardest-hit area around Richlands, authorities said the flooding was worse than that seen there last summer.
Several localities reported damage to their water systems and wastewater treatment plants. In Lee County, 600 customers were left without water after floodwaters damaged a water line crossing a creek. Russell County officials said their water and wastewater plants were running at half of normal capacity because of flood damage.
Problems with Wytheville's water plant left the town with just a half-day's supply of fresh water on hand, and officials planned to advise residents to boil water for drinking and cooking.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said most main roads in the region had reopened by yesterday.
Still closed by high water were sections of primary road in the counties of Smyth, Russell, Washington, Scott and Tazewell.
More than 100 secondary roads in the region remained blocked by high water or mudslides, the department said.


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