More than a year after a devastating flash flood hit Buchanan and Tazewell counties, residents whose property was damaged or destroyed can finally start the process of applying for state flood relief money.
Delegate Will Morefield, R-Tazewell County, who was instrumental in securing the $18 million, said Friday he hopes those who qualify will receive the money before the end of the year.
To help affected residents get the application process started, information sessions will be held Wednesday in Bandy and Whitewood.
“Many of the flood victims lost everything they own with no ability to rebuild. The assistance will give them hope for a better future,” said Morefield.
Morefield said a crowd is expected at the meeting in Whitewood, where there was a lot of property lost and damaged.
Buddy Fuller, a retired resident of Whitewood who has rental properties in three counties, said he plans to be at the meeting Wednesday. He hopes to recoup some of the money he’s spent cleaning up a trailer park he owns off Dismal River Road and wants to rebuild, an apartment building in Whitewood, a number of damaged rental properties and a barn, and replace some sheep that got washed away.
Flood relief information sessions
Meetings about how to apply for state aid will be held Wednesday for residents of Buchanan and Tazewell counties whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the July 2022 flash flood.
Tazewell County: 4:30 p.m., Bandy Community Center, 3290 Bandy Road
Buchanan County: 7 p.m., Whitewood Community Center, 7424 Dismal River Road
He said those in the community don’t seem to be angry over the budget impasse that held up the relief funding because they knew it would eventually come through.
“We’ve just been waiting,” Fuller said Friday. “I know with our legislators, Morefield and Hackworth [Sen. Travis Hackworth, R-Tazewell County], if there’s any way to get the money, they’re going to get it for us.”
As with the relief fund for those hit by flooding in August 2021 in the town of Hurley in Buchanan County, the money will go through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which is hosting the community sessions. The meetings are open to the public and no registration is required, Morefield said.
The meetings will include information about the application process, eligibility requirements and program guidelines to assist residents in applying for the disaster relief program, according to DHCD.
The relief program will offer a grant of 175% of the local assessed value for property that is classified a total loss or had major damage. For properties that can be repaired, eligible applicants can receive assistance to make repairs or be reimbursed for work that has already been done.
The devastating flash flooding hit parts of eastern Buchanan County and western Tazewell County on the night of July 12, when about 6 inches of rain fell over just a few hours. The resulting flooding damaged roads and bridges, destroyed homes and caused power and water outages. There were no reported deaths or injuries.
According to an online dashboard maintained by United Way of Southwest Virginia, a lead agency in the recovery effort, 21 homes were destroyed; as of Aug. 31, six had been built to replace them. Another 25 had major damage of $10,000 or more, and 18 had been repaired. Twenty-five more homes saw damage of $10,000 or less.
So far, United Way has spent $574,441 on the repairs and construction and $225,049 remains, the dashboard states. All of the money came from donations.
Less than a year earlier, a similar storm occurred in the Guesses Fork area of Hurley, a community about 30 miles away. It also resulted in major flooding, the destruction or damage to dozens of homes and the death of one woman.
Following both storms, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied financial help to individual homeowners, saying that the damage wasn’t significant enough to warrant aid. Most of the homeowners did not carry flood insurance.
FEMA’s response to the Hurley disaster prompted Morefield to propose a statewide flood recovery fund that would pay for property losses that weren’t covered by insurance or federal aid. There was a budget earmark of $11.4 million for Hurley relief.
Initially, Morefield had sought $11 million in relief money for the areas hit by the July 2022 flooding, but he increased the amount to $18 million when local damage estimates increased.
Those in Hurley also had to wait for state relief money due to a budget stalemate, although it had been ironed out by June 2022. The first state funds went to Hurley residents in December 2022 — 16 months after the flooding.
It’s been 15 months since the Whitewood flooding.
Local and state officials have said the Hurley flood left them better prepared for the Whitewood disaster, and they decided that the framework developed for the Hurley relief money will be used for Whitewood.
As with the Hurley flooding, those who want to be reimbursed for work that’s already been done must provide receipts, Morefield said.That requirement slowed down the process in Hurley, as did a shortage of contractors to do the work.
Applicants in Buchanan County can apply at the Buchanan County Department of Social Services in Grundy, while those in Tazewell County can apply at the Tazewell County Administration Office on Main Street in Tazewell.
“We are excited to start taking applications and get the much-needed assistance to the flood victims,” Morefield said. “The program is unlike any flood relief program in the United States and the governor referred to it as a model program. Our region is grateful the General Assembly and the governor offered their support for our request during a time of crisis. I have been extremely impressed with the Department of Housing and Community Development and all of the local partners for their commitment to help.”