My heart is with the people of Buchanan County as they recover from terrible flooding that occurred after rainstorms swept through the area on the night of July 12. After the devastating toll flooding took on Hurley last year, it is distressing to see the county again be subject to such damage. Although thankfully no lives were lost, the physical destruction was considerable.
People often claim that Republicans and Democrats do not work together. This is not true at either the federal or state levels in times of disaster. Senators Warner and Kaine and I do all we can together to help our constituents in need when disaster hits.
Since the flood, staffers in my office have been on the scene frequently, and I visited the destruction myself on July 16. Buchanan County Sheriff John McClanahan and Chief Deputy Eric Breeding guided me through the devastated areas, and we stopped to talk to a number of affected citizens. Later, we went by the relief distribution center that has been set up at Twin Valley Elementary/Middle School.
The stories I heard from survivors about their experiences with the flood were hair-raising. Residents held on to whatever they could as the waters rushed about them. An assessment of the damage indicates that 30 homes have been destroyed, more than 30 others suffered major damage, and dozens more were still impacted. I saw one house now in the middle of a road, and a road through a trailer park that had become a river.
The one injury I learned about related to the flood came afterward; a man went outside to check on damage to his property and was bit by a copperhead that the flood had brought onto the hood of his car. He kept his presence of mind and calmly sought help at the distribution center. They took him to the hospital, where he received antivenom and recovered.
Roads were washed away, and rebuilding them will require substantial effort. The flooding hit some of the most isolated parts of Buchanan County, where residents frequently stock up on meat and other food and freeze it; power outages resulted in the spoilage of these stockpiles.
For all the wreckage I saw, I also witnessed the good work done by first responders, relief workers, and the people of the area helping their friends and neighbors get through this tragedy. It is inspiring to see how the people of the county are striving to help each other and how many different organizations and individuals have generously offered their time or services.
Local businesses and non-government organizations have donated supplies such as pallets of water and cleanup equipment. Volunteers from the region and beyond are on the scene to assist those whose lives have been upended. Seeing this type of charity in action is an encouragement to those of us in elected office to do what we can.
Disaster relief requires teamwork both between the Commonwealth and the Federal Government and between the area’s federal representatives. Governor Youngkin quickly declared a state of emergency and inspected the destruction firsthand, and state legislators from the region have been engaged in the relief effort. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is conducting a damage assessment which will inform decisions on aid granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
I will do all that I can to ensure the federal response meets the needs of Buchanan County, and I know Senators Warner and Kaine will, too. During events like these, our differing partisan affiliations do not affect our cooperation. Just last year in Hurley, we worked together with Democrat then-Governor Northam to secure aid, and we will do so again.
FEMA offers a variety of aid after a disaster, including individual assistance, help with rebuilding infrastructure, and loans to help local governments continue to provide services. As we unfortunately saw in Hurley, the agency’s decision to provide some forms of relief does not mean all of them are accessible. Those decisions will be made in the coming days.
On the long road ahead to recovery, I will do all in my power to see that the needs of Buchanan County are not neglected.
- Congressman Morgan Griffith