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Waters recede, damage assessments begin

Stephen Igo • Feb 12, 2018 at 5:00 PM

WISE — Floodwaters have receded across Wise County from the weekend deluge that swamped many areas across the county and, indeed, the region, and damage assessments are underway.

On Monday, Wise County Attorney Karen Mullins, who also serves as media coordinator for the county's Emergency Operations Center, said the status report during the Emergency Management team meeting at 9 a.m. showed all roads have reopened to traffic in Big Stone Gap and Coeburn — two of the most severely impacted areas — and the Virginia Department of Transportation was working to clear roadways in the Glamorgan area east and north of Wise.

Mullins said American Electric Power (AEP) reported 18 customers without power in the Honebranch sector of St. Paul early Monday. Power was expected to be restored by Monday afternoon. There were 85 customers without water in the Bold Camp area of Pound, the result of a broken water line caused by a slide, although the Wise County Sheriff's Office issued a boil water notice earlier Monday, indicating some service had been or was expected to be restored soon.

First responders continued to monitor a private earthen dam on Thacker's Branch in the Dorchester area. The small impoundment had officials concerned during the worst of the rains Saturday into Sunday, with continuing concern and monitoring into Monday.

Mullins said county officials are still trying to determine the landowner. The initial impoundment may be the leavings of an old coal operation in that area. She said the water at the dam has receded "significantly" since Sunday. Officials were also checking to see if the impoundment is permitted by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy.

The impoundment and any problems it poses are not entirely a manmade situation, Mullins added.

"We think it is actually — a big part of it — is beaver dams where beavers make a small pond a very big pond," she said. "We know we've had beaver issues in that area." There are approximately 17 homes below the area of the impoundment, she added, and the main area of concern is where drains are located under a private driveway.

Mullins said the county's EM team was to meet for another briefing at 3 a.m. Tuesday and possibly decide at that time whether to lift the county's declaration of a state of emergency. The Wise County EOC issued the declaration at about 10 p.m. Saturday as flood waters from streams across the county surged out of their banks, prompting evacuations in some areas, particularly parts of Big Stone Gap and Coeburn.

"Right now we have people out doing damage assessments. We have people looking at washed-out bridges and stream areas," Mullins said. At least one private drive bridge was washed out, but all VDOT-maintained bridges seem to have withstood the high water in good shape, she added.

Officials also plan to keep a wary eye on another storm system expected to sweep across the region by mid-week, Mullins said.

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