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Flooding Batters Appalachia

Thunderstorms that moved into central West Virginia killed at least one person and created the potential for more misery in a region trying to recover from last week's deadly floods.

Edward Jordan, 81, was killed Tuesday when a vehicle driven by his 68-year-old wife, Velma, hydroplaned after hitting water pouring off a hillside in Webster County, said State Police Senior Trooper J.C. Powers.

Also Tuesday, a 20-year-old woman and her toddler daughter were killed in Nicholas County when their car ran off the road into the swollen Birch River. Officials could not say whether that accident was related to severe weather, but said it was raining at the time.

Nine people have died in West Virginia since 5 inches of rain fell on the region within a six-hour period last week. Four others were missing.

"We have several counties reporting minor flooding, roads closed, some minor home damage," said Paul Howard with the state Office of Emergency Services.

The National Weather Service predicted another round of heavy showers for Wednesday, with a flood watch extended for 24 counties.

Heavy rains in Webster County stranded about two dozen people at a campground, according to a spokeswoman for the county's 911 center. High water prevented firefighters from attempting a rescue.

Gov. Bob Wise and federal officials signed a disaster declaration Tuesday pledging state and federal aid for flood victims. Wise urged residents to consider taking buyouts to get out of the flood-prone areas.

Federal and state officials began putting relief centers throughout the area. They also began surveying all public buildings and roads for damage to see if as many as six counties could qualify for more federal aid, said Office of Emergency Services Director Steve Kappa.

County officials also are rushing to establish emergency housing. Damage reports show more than 2,000 structures were damaged and 197 homes were destroyed.

Residents of Welch continued to shovel mud and throw out flood-damaged possessions Tuesday. A sign at one house read, "Don't just sightsee, shovel!"

National Guard machinery tore into piles of sodden furniture and other belongings now heading to emergency landfills. Up to 700 guardsmen have been activated for the cleanup.

County officials will meet next week to determine if classes can resume this spring. If schools remain closed, state lawmakers might be asked to let the county open schools earlier in August to make up the lost weeks.

"I can't foresee that children would be back to school for at least two or three weeks. I just can't see it. We have major, major problems," McDowell County Superintendent Mark Manchin said.

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