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Support in West Virginia Flooding

More than 700 troops have assisted across the state, from rescues to medical assistance to door-to-door checks
A debris pile was created at Elkview Middle School in Elkview, WV. Clearing debris is one of the many tasks Guard troops have performed in response to the June 23 flooding. Photo by Tech. Sgt. De-Juan Haley
A debris pile was created at Elkview Middle School in Elkview, WV. Clearing debris is one of the many tasks Guard troops have performed in response to the June 23 flooding. Photo by Tech. Sgt. De-Juan Haley

Working with state and federal authorities, more than 700 National Guard troops have responded to the massive flooding in West Virginia, rescuing civilians, offering medical assistance, distributing supplies, clearing debris, and checking on the overall safety and welfare of residents.

As of Wednesday, the devastation from severe storms that began June 23 had claimed the lives of at least 23 people and damaged or destroyed more than 1,200 homes, according to CNN. The death toll was the nation’s highest for flash floods since 2010, when 27 people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, the network reported. Also last week, tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power. 

In Greenbrier County, which is located in southeastern West Virginia and is the second-largest county in the state, an estimated 10 inches of rain fell. Overall, according to Reuters, the state received one-fourth of its yearly rainfall in a single day, and the National Weather Service reported that the flood was a one-in-a-thousand-year event. President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the state on June 25.  

“Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations. Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I've never seen anything like that,” Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill told The Weather Channel.

As of Wednesday, 598 West Virginia Army Guard Soldiers had responded, along with 139 Airmen. Soldiers initially focused on supporting search and rescue efforts. Last Friday, Guard troops rescued more than 500 people by building a temporary roadway for residents who had been trapped in a shopping plaza in Kanawha County, in the southwestern part of the state. 

Guard troops around the state were also delivering necessities, providing aerial views of affected areas, giving medical assistance, and conducting door-to-door health and welfare checks.

Additional assistance came from 81 Soldiers in the Rhode Island National Guard’s 861st Engineer Support Company. Already present for their planned Annual Training in West Virginia, they cleared obstacles and repaired roads, working with West Virginia’s 111th Engineer Brigade. 

“Our primary focus and concern every day since this tragedy struck is on the well-being of the citizens of West Virginia,” said Major General James A. Hoyer, West Virginia adjutant general.  “The interagency collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, West Virginia Department of Transportation, West Virginia State Police, local law enforcement and first responders and volunteer organizations to provide aid and comfort has been amazing.”

On seeing the magnitude of the Guard response to this adversity, Hoyer said: “It is truly inspiring to see the dedication of the men and women of all the agencies working together to shoulder their share of the burden to provide help to their fellow West Virginians in need.”