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Hundreds Flee Homes Along Flooded W.Va. Rivers

February 10, 1994

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Hundreds of residents fled their homes along swollen streams across parts of West Virginia on Wednesday after more than 4 inches of rain.

High water also blocked dozens of roads, closed schools and businesses in several counties and forced rerouting of traffic on one interstate, authorities said.

In addition to rain, the storm that spread snow and ice from the Plains to the East Coast on Tuesday also hit West Virginia with ice that knocked out power to about 13,000 customers statewide.

Gov. Gaston Caperton ordered the National Guard to assist flood victims in Grantsville, Glenville and Philippi, and declared a state of emergency in four counties hit hard by ice storms. He also sent state workers home two hours early because of icy roads.

Elsewhere Wednesday:

- The ice caused hundreds of traffic accidents around the country and brought down power lines.

- Many schools remained closed in the Northeast and Midwest and traffic was light as many commuters stayed home.

- Weather-related deaths Tuesday and Wednesday reached 14: six in Minnesota; two each in Oklahoma, Illinois and New York state; and one each in Massaschusetts and Arizona.

- Operations resumed at Newark (N.J.) International Airport, where about 2,000 people had been stranded.

- So far this season, New York City has spent about $21 million battling snow and ice - twice its average annual winter cleanup budget.

- Streets and sidewalks in Delaware were so icy that several post offices halted mail deliveries. ″It just wasn’t worth the risk because it’s really treacherous,″ said postal clerk Jim Cooke at the Camden-Wyoming Post Office near Dover.

- Southwestern Colorado was digging out from a 3-foot snowfall and the road was opened to Silverton, which had been cut off from the rest of the world for a day by impassable mountain highways. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said about 160 avalanches were reported Wednesday and posted an avalanche warning Wednesday for all mountain areas.

In northern West Virginia, about 1,000 people were asked to leave their Tucker County homes in an eight-mile stretch along the Cheat River from St. George to Hendricks. High water had already entered many of the homes, said Parsons firefighter Eric McCrum.

Canaan Valley in Tucker County received 4.15 inches of rain by early Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

North along the river in Rowlesburg, about 50 residents were told to evacuate and four people trapped on a small island in the river were rescued by helicopter, authorities said.

The Cheat River crested nearly 6 feet above flood stage at Parsons and more than 10 feet above flood stage at Rowlesburg, the National Weather Service said.

In Philippi, the Tygart River flooded two bridges and cut off access to a hospital. Barbour County medical personnel set up a temporary emergency room in the isolated area, said Rob Jones, director of emergency services.

Some flooded homes in Philippi were evacuated, he said.

The rising Cheat and Tygart rivers in northern West Virginia stirred memories of a November 1985 flood that caused at least $500 million damage statewide.

″I think that’s in the back of everybody’s mind,″ Jones said. ″It’s bringing back a lot of bad memories.″

The Red Cross opened emergency shelters Wednesday in Preston, Tyler and Tucker counties.

Homes also were evacuated in seven other counties in western and eastern parts of the state, the weather service said.

Flooding closed most roads in Gilmer County, said Jim Gum, spokesman for the county office of emergency services.

″People are trying to put their stuff up out of the water. It’s caused quite a bit of panic. It doesn’t come up this fast,″ he said.

Water washed away at least one mobile home at Alum Bridge, about 10 miles west of Weston, said Tim Squires, communications officer for the county emergency services office. The occupants were uninjured, he said.

Runoff flooded Interstate 79 at Jane Lew for several hours early Wednesday.

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