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A motorist gets stranded as she tries to cross high water along U.S. Route 52 in Welch.

WELCH — Not again. Flood-weary southern West Virginia got another dose of nature’s fury late Friday night and early Saturday morning as heavy rains that dumped from three to four inches of rain on the region’s steep mountain slopes, causing isolated flooding in parts of Mercer and Monroe counties and widespread flooding in McDowell and Wyoming counties.

“The heavier rainfall amounts fell north of the Virginia/West Virginia border,” Phil Manuel, with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., said. “Rock Camp in Monroe County reported 2.78 inches of rain, and Matoaka reported 3.06 inches. Some areas of McDowell and Wyoming counties reported 4-inch rain amounts in the 24-hour period from 4 p.m., Friday to 4 p.m., Saturday.”

Darrick Scott of Landgraff, got called out at 6 a.m., Saturday morning to stop traffic on U.S. Route 52 near the Elkhorn Inn, and send vehicles on a route past a replica of the Globe Theater — a by-pass that became familiar to local travelers who dealt with earlier flash floods on July 8, 2001 and May 2, 2002.

“The houses that used to be there are gone now,” Scott said as he pointed in the direction of a section of Landgraff called Shawnee Bottom. Deep water settled on Route 52 in a part of Landgraff that once included older company homes as well as some manufactured homes.

“A guy drove through there not long ago in a tractor-trailer,” Scott said. “He made it, but I don’t think a car would get through.” Scott works at Concord University, but also serves on the Keystone Volunteer Fire Department. “It would be difficult for a tractor-trailer to get through the detour.”

Jimmy Gianato looked weary as he warily eyed an ever-growing collection of debris piling up on the Norfolk Southern Railway bridge over Elkhorn Creek on the southern end of Kimball. Gianato is director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. However, he lives in Kimball where he and his wife own a restaurant, and several other Gianato family members live, own businesses and work.

“That’s what got us the last time,” he said, pointing to the debris pile that rocked up and down as the waves of the Elkhorn Creek flowed through town. The 2001 flood devastated Kimball, but the 2002 flood added insult to injury by erasing much of what residents had done to restore order to their lives after the first flood.

NS crews were on the scene quickly, and before noon, had a backhoe in place to remove the debris riding the Elkhorn waves. “I’ve been up since 2 a.m., Gianato said. “There are no injuries in this event so far that we know of. Some people were stranded and we got help to them. Coney Island (in Welch) has about 4 feet of water, but we have been able to route traffic another way around that area.

“We think that if the rain holds off, we’ll be OK here in Kimball,” Gianato said. “A tree fell on some power lines up in Iaeger and knocked out three utility poles. They don’t have power up there. I understand that Wyoming and Mingo counties were hit pretty hard too.”

Gianato said a West Virginia National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was scheduled to leave Charleston at 11:30 a.m., and pick him up at a landing zone at the Kimball Wal-Mart. “I’ll know a little more about the extent of the flooding after I see it from the air.”

Several mountain tributaries that traditionally flow through drainage pipes under Route 52 were overflowing and becoming 6 to 12 inch deep swift streams over the highway. The stream flowing out of Carswell Hollow was particularly deep and fast.

“I tell you, something has to be done about the drains here,” David White of Welch said as he watched traffic travel through a deep pool of standing water on Virginia Avenue in Welch.

“I’ve been up watching this stream get bigger all night long,” White said. “If these drains were cleaned regularly, I believe they could handle it.” White and Mark Mitchem, also of Welch, assisted travelers as they tried to ford the water that appeared to get deeper with each passing minute. Most trucks made it. Some cars did not. When a vehicle stalled out, the volunteers recruited help to push the motorist from the road so the next driver could make a try.

“It is bad in Gilbert,” Mike Mitchem, executive director of the King Coal Highway Authority, and a member of the McDowell County School Board said.

Mitchem said that Ikes Fork and Hanover in Wyoming County were hard hit, and said a tree that fell in Iaeger that knocked out power was also blocking Route 52.

A McDowell County 911 dispatcher said that in addition to U.S. Route 52 in Iaeger, Coney Island, the underpass near Welch Community Hospital and McDowell Street in Welch were all closed by mid-afternoon. However, by 7 p.m., on Saturday, the waters had receded and the streets were reopened.

Manuel said the Weather Service received reports that U.S. Route 219 at Indian Creek and in Lindside, Monroe County were closed for a time due to flooding and mud slides.

“There were some evacuations in Camp Creek, a portion of Brickyard Road in Princeton was closed and the Bluestone River is running at high levels,” Manuel said.

A tree fell across a main road in Spanishburg, blocking traffic in that area, according to the West Virginia State Police, while fire, rescue, police and emergency services throughout Mercer County were busy with a variety of calls throughout the day.

Gov. Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency in McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo, Logan, Boone, Raleigh and surrounding counties.

– Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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