Justice declares a state of emergency for McDowell County due to flood damage

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Jul. 28—WELCH — McDowell County is among six West Virginia counties that were placed Thursday under a state of emergency by Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice declared a state of emergency for McDowell County as well as Fayette, Greenbrier, Logan, Mingo, and Wyoming counties after severe thunderstorms with associated heavy rains and high winds this week caused significant local flooding, downed trees, power outages, disruption to potable water systems, and road blockages.

As part of this state of emergency declaration, Justice has directed the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) to implement the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan as necessary, mobilize appropriate personnel and resources to respond to the emergency, and facilitate the provision of essential emergency services.

"We were prepared for this. We knew that these rains were coming and that our people were going to have to be super, super careful," Justice said. "We reached out to emergency management officials across the state this morning and determined that we had several counties in need of this emergency declaration, but we're just thankful that it wasn't worse. Very luckily, we have not yet seen any major life-threatening impacts from these storms."

Other areas across the Appalachian region haven't been as lucky, state officials said. In eastern Kentucky, the same storm systems produced major flash floods, resulting in multiple deaths.

As a result, Justice has ordered that members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) be deployed to aid flood response efforts in Kentucky. The WVNG is sending two UH-60M Blackhawks and two UH-72 Lakota aircraft with hoist capability and fully operational crews comprised of 14 Soldiers to support the Kentucky National Guard.

The request for support will be executed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact in coordination with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's office and the Kentucky National Guard. Crew members are deployed from Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) and Company B, 1-224th Security and Support Aviation Battalion located in Williamstown. Each unit has specialized equipment and crews to provide aeromedical evacuation, search and rescue, and hoist capabilities for this response mission.

"The mission of the National Guard is to be ready at a moment's notice to help our citizens in need and right now, our neighbors in Kentucky need our help," said Maj. Gen. William "Bill" Crane, Adjutant General, WVNG. "Upon the direction of Governor Justice, our aircraft and crews with specialized hoist capability and medical evacuation training will be deployed to Kentucky to help save lives and assist their comrades-in-arms from the Kentucky National Guard. Our men and women are proud to answer this call."

Earlier this week, Justice declared a State of Preparedness for all 55 West Virginia counties in advance of the flooding threat. That state of preparedness remains in effect for the 49 counties not included in today's State of Emergency.

The governor's state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days unless terminated by subsequent proclamation.

Justice and the WVEMD ask all West Virginians to remain attentive to weather conditions through local media reports and follow any instructions issued by emergency officials.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com