(WFXR) — Search and rescue teams from across southwest and central Virginia were called to help Buchanan County after a devastating flash flood took place Tuesday night.
One of the many teams called out was the Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS.
“The most impactful part of this event was driving into the community,” said Botetourt County Fire and EMS Deputy Chief Jeff Powell.
The area was filled with debris, mud, and devastation at every turn.
“That went on for miles and miles as we approached the incident area, and that just gave us a small taste or a small picture of just how widespread this event was,” Powell added.
Powell was one of the leaders on the intelligence team, which was no small task, especially since there was a point when 44 people were considered missing.
“To build a clear picture, to bring together all those different streams of information, from 911 calls to the hotline and other avenues, just to find out where we were getting reports of damage and where we were getting reports of devastation and looking for the individuals that we needed to account for,” he explained.
While first responders braved flood zones, some community members, like Jason Hale, ran their own rescue operations. Hale’s mission was to find his mother.
“It took us a day to get up here. I had to get a four-wheeler to get up here to get to her,” said Hale.
Hale found his mother alive and well at a neighbor’s house after her own home was hit by a pontoon boat and a shed.
“My husband died about eight years ago, and here I lost my trailer, and it’s just been a toll on me,” Hale’s mother, Karen, told WFXR News.
Powell says the flood took an enormous toll on dozens of people in Buchanan County, but there is a silver lining: no lives were lost and everybody was accounted for within a few days.
“We are so thankful there was no loss of life with this event, but we know we were very close to that, and we look out for each other and we do what we can to help our neighbors,” said Powell.
He says cleanup in Buchanan County could take months or even years.