Buchanan County flood damage. Photos by Garrett Horne.
Flood damage in the Pilgrim’s Knob section of Buchanan County. Photo by Lakin Keene.

The floodwaters that tore through parts of Buchanan County last week destroyed 33 properties and damaged dozens more, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management reported Monday.

The state agency had four teams on the ground last week to survey damage in the area around Oakwood, which was hit late Tuesday by up to 5 inches of rain in a matter of hours.

In addition to the properties that were destroyed, the initial damage assessment found that 32 properties sustained major damage and 28 had minor damage, while another 36 structures were affected.

The assessment doesn’t include damage to public infrastructure, which is handled through a separate federal declaration process.

In its news release, VDEM said the assessment is the first step in helping Gov. Glenn Youngkin determine whether the scope of the damages meets the criteria for requesting individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A joint preliminary damage assessment will be performed by the local government, VDEM, FEMA and the Small Business Administration to determine the uninsured personal property losses.

If the damage criteria are met, VDEM said, the governor can request a major disaster declaration from the president. Youngkin visited Buchanan County on Friday to meet first responders and residents, and to tour flooded areas.

Last week’s flooding affected areas of Buchanan County including Whitewood, Pilgrim’s Knob and Jewell Valley, where homes sit along creeks and small rivers at the base of steep hillsides. As rain fell Tuesday night, water poured down the hills, rushing into the waterways and quickly overwhelming them. Power and water were knocked out across the area, and many roads were made impassable by downed trees and mudslides.

Although the flooding happened at night, when most people were at home, no deaths were reported. Several dozen residents were unaccounted for in the days following the storm, but those numbers quickly dwindled as authorities were able to make contact with people who had been cut off from roads or phone service.

This was the second significant flooding event in Buchanan County in less than a year. In August, the Guesses Fork community of Hurley, about 30 miles from Oakwood, was hit by heavy rains and similar flash flooding. One person died.

VDEM determined that 31 properties in Hurley were destroyed, and another 35 sustained major or minor damage. FEMA denied the state’s request for individual assistance for homeowners, saying the destruction was not great enough to warrant the help, but it did provide financial assistance to rebuild infrastructure.

United Way of Southwest Virginia has set up a fundraising and volunteer recruitment portal. Residents who live in the affected area and need help should call the Buchanan County Department of Social Services at 276-935-8106 to be enrolled as a flood relief case.

Previous flood coverage:

Youngkin tours flood damage, says Virginia needs state relief fund

Flood damage in Buchanan County called ‘apocalyptic’

Report: All residents now accounted for

Heavy flooding in Buchanan County; at least 44 missing (with photo galleries from the scene)

Megan Schnabel

Megan Schnabel is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach her at megan@cardinalnews.org.