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Door-To-Door Search

Light rain fell Saturday as State Police and National Guard soldiers went door to door in search of victims of devastating Appalachian floods that killed at least five people, including a 14-month-old girl, and left 11 others missing.

Torrents of water poured down mountainsides and overflowed streams and rivers in three states Friday, flooding towns in minutes and leaving mud, debris and destruction.

Most streams were receding Saturday, but West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise said after touring the area by helicopter and on foot that hundreds of people were homeless and at least 375 homes and 30 businesses were damaged.

"We're going to see a lot of digging out for a long time to come," said Wise, who authorized the National Guard to activate 700 soldiers.

One of the hardest hit areas was West Virginia's McDowell County, where three people were confirmed dead.

State Police Capt. R.L. Hall was in the area when it was devastated by floods last July.

"July was record flooding in McDowell County, and this is higher than that," Hall said Friday. "From one end of the county to another, it's all under water."

Four people were killed in McDowell County, including a 14-month-old girl whose body was found Saturday lodged under a bridge. A child had been reported missing by relatives of a woman who was found dead earlier.

One person was confirmed dead in Virginia. Seven were listed as missing in West Virginia, with three unaccounted for in Virginia and one in Kentucky.

Rescue teams in Kentucky fanned out early Saturday in search of the man missing there.

"The water has gone down just enough to be able to get to the river," said Terri Osborne, a spokeswoman for Pike County, Ky., 911 and emergency management.

The flooding was caused by 5 inches of rain that fell in six hours Thursday in the area where West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia meet. Showers moved into the region again Saturday morning.

Many streams had started receding on Friday, and on Saturday the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy along the West Virginia-Kentucky state line crested at Kermit at 42.5 feet, 4.5 feet above flood stage, state officials said.

Upstream in Williamson, W.Va., the doors of the town flood wall were closed for the first time since it was built 18 years ago, but parts of the town of 3,400 people were already swamped. By Saturday morning, the Tug Fork there was down to 25 feet, from Friday's crest at 42.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner's office said about 200 houses there were either damaged or destroyed. An undetermined number of structures were damaged in Kentucky.

In Welch, business owners struggled to clean up from the deluge.

Frank Kennedy's floral and antique store filled with 4 feet of water, destroying many of his antiques. He said that on Friday morning, McDowell Street was a river carrying lawn chairs, toilet paper and other flotsam from the nearby Dollar General Store.

"I'm 45 years old, and I've never seen it worse than this," he said. "It came up so fast, it was just so frightening."

Betty Jones, owner of ChrisAnn Dress Shop, said she doubted any of the five businesses in downtown Welch could survive. She had no flood insurance on her store.

"In a town where the economy is bad like this, you cut corners," Jones said. "I guess that was one of the corners we shouldn't have cut."

American Electric Power Co. spokesman Todd Burns said about 17,250 of the utility's customers lost power in southwest Virginia. All but about 2,500 had regained power by Friday afternoon, he said.

Burns said about 3,600 customers in West Virginia and 1,400 customers in Kentucky wouldn't have power until at least Saturday.

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