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Assessments reveal more than 100 structures damaged, major problems with infrastructure in Buchanan County | State and Regional News

A partial assessment reveals more than 100 Buchanan County homes and businesses were damaged by flooding with more reviews to follow, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Teams from the department visited areas affected by flash flooding Tuesday and Wednesday and reported 25 structures – including 22 homes – were destroyed while another 32 homes and seven businesses received major damage.

A total of 99 homes and 15 commercial structures were affected by floodwaters which caused downed trees, flooded roads and flooded residences across various regions of the county. The most impacted communities were Whitewood and Pilgrims Knob, due to the Dismal Creek overflowing its banks.

No cost estimate was included in the report.

Major flooding wreaked havoc on Buchanan County’s infrastructure, causing millions in damage to the public water system where restoring some service could take weeks.

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Electricity is rebounding faster with most residential customers expected to have service restored by over the weekend, according to Appalachian Power.

Floodwaters caused widespread damage Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the Whitewood, Pilgrim’s Knob and areas located east of U.S. Route 460, destroying or damaging homes and businesses. Included in the carnage was the county Public Service Authority’s lower office and Appalachian Power’s Dismal transmission and distribution station.

Six Buchanan County PSA crews have been working 16-hour days trying to re-establish service, according to Chairman Ray Blankenship.

On Friday he estimated about a third of the authority’s 8,500-plus customers remained without water service. Restoration for some could take weeks.

“The Whitewood area is all down. Some of it, if we had the parts and everything went good, it will probably take at least a month,” Blankenship said. “When we had the flood in Hurley, to get it [water] back to everybody, they let us run lines on top of the ground, temporarily. If we can do that here, it would be faster.”

The damage estimate is more than $2 million, he said.

While some residents use wells, nearly half of the county’s residents rely on public water.

Another major problem, he said, is most of the authority’s lines run along roadways and some of those were washed out.

“We’ve got to wait for them to fix the road before we can put the water lines back in,” Blankenship said, adding they met with Virginia Department of Transportation officials Thursday to prioritize repairs.

VDOT reported Friday that 11 routes impacted by flooding, except state Route 715, were “passable with care” but 715 has “significant bridge damage. “ VDOT crews will be working this weekend to clear debris and make repairs. 

Another problem is a significant shortage of replacement water line.

“When COVID was going on a lot of factories wasn’t producing a lot of water line and that still carries over to now. It’s almost impossible to get supplies,” Blankenship said. “We reached out and PSA directors throughout Southwest Virginia are trying to help us locate stuff, give us their extra stuff and Lee County even offered to send a crew in to help.”

Some water service was restored Friday.

At one point the authority had no power to any of its pumping stations. As of Friday afternoon, Appalachian Power had restored service to a couple of the authority’s pump stations, Blankenship said. One kept Keen Mountain Prison from running out of water and the other got water flowing again to Hurley and Slate Creek, two areas outside this past week’s flood damage zone.

“It looks better today than it did. Situations with PSAs can change quickly; luckily for us it changed in our favor,” Blankenship said.

About 175 Appalachian Power employees have been working since early Wednesday to restore service, spokesperson Teresa Hall said Friday.

“At the peak we had about 3,700 customers without power and that number was down to less than 400 Friday afternoon,” Hall said. “That number won’t go to zero for some time because some homes are too damaged to accept service.”

VDEM crews had completed about 75% of the damage assessment on Friday and were continuing their work this weekend.

Much of the damage is due to debris, especially tree limbs

“Residents that were impacted by the flooding and have debris on their property can have it removed by the county. Push all debris to the edge of your property by the road and the county will dispose of it,” a VDEM statement read.

Residents are urged to be patient, given the extensive area affected by the flooding.

The assistance center at Twin Valley Elementary and Middle School will provide water, snacks, tetanus shots and access to showers. It is also a place to cool off in an air conditioned facility and charge any electronic devices such as cell phones or tablets. It is being staffed 24 hours and can be reached by calling 276-498-4537.

The American Red Cross began serving hot meals Saturday at the assistance center. Lunch will be at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m., according to the statement.

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