West Virginia floods: 23 people dead, including two kids

Last Updated Jun 24, 2016 10:46 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A deluge of 9 inches of rain on parts of West Virginia destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes, knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses and killed 23 people, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday. Officials worry more victims will be found as they begin to clear the rubble.

About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued as waters quickly rose during the storm.

"Our focus remains on search and rescue," the governor said. He added: "It's been a long 24 hours and the next 24 hours may not be much easier."

Forty-four of West Virginia's 55 counties were under a state of emergency, and parts of the mid-Atlantic region faced more severe weather Friday, CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports.

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In this photo released by the The Weather Channel, a vehicle rests on the in a stream after a heavy rain near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, June 24, 2016.

Justin Michaels/The Weather Channel via AP

The deaths included an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy who were swept away in different counties, authorities said. Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill described "complete chaos" in his county, which was one of the hardest hit.

"Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations," he said. "Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I've never seen anything like that."

Water rescue teams were searching devastated areas.

"Today's just an accountability mission, trying to verify where everybody's at and follow up on missing person tips," he said. "It's really hard to navigate around because there's just a ton of debris. We've even had rescuers that had to be rescued."

The rains submerged homes and cars in dirty brown water and chewed up roads.

Some areas are "probably looking at flooding that's going to be the worst in 100 years," the governor's spokesman Chris Stadelman said.

Eric Blackshire was one of the stranded at Crossings Mall, a mix of restaurants, stores and a hotel in Elkview, which is about 15 miles northeast of Charleston. Some had to sleep in their cars or at businesses overnight. Blackshire opted for a hotel room.

"It was kind of like a hurricane party. I guess you could call it a flood party. There were lots of beers being drank last night," he told The Associated Press.

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Emergency crews take out boats on a flooded I-79 at the Clendenin Exit, after the state was pummeled by up to 10 inches of rain on Thursday, causing rivers and streams to overflow into neighboring communities, in Kanawha County, West Virginia, June 24, 2016.

West Virginia Department of Transportation/Handout via REUTERS

He was able to get to safety Friday when Pinch Volunteer Fire Department firefighters used a rope to guide people down a hillside. About 50 people had been rescued so far.

Kanawha County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Brian Humphreys said a better solution was needed: "That's going to require, I think, some engineering efforts" - perhaps a temporary bridge.

An area near the West Virginia-Virginia border received at least 9 inches of rain while other parts of the state had 3 to 5 inches, National Weather Service hydrologist John Sikora said. While most of the rain had tapered off Friday, there were still scattered showers, thunderstorms and river flood warnings.

Kanawha County officials reported at least 70 water rescues. The Republican governor said rescue workers have risked their own lives to rescue people stranded on rooftops and in overflowing rivers. In Richwood, state police and local responders rescued a woman trapped in her car with water rising up to her neck, he said.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in Greenbrier County. At The Greenbrier, a luxury resort nestled in the mountains, the golf course was overrun by rushing waters. The course is scheduled to host a PGA tour event, The Greenbrier Classic, from July 4-10.

The 710-room resort closed to guests on Friday and was using backup generators, according to a post on its Facebook page. The resort posted photos of its golf course covered in floodwaters.

The online post said the resort, which is owned by billionaire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Justice, was asking guests planing to stay over the weekend to reschedule.

The body of 8-year-old Emanual Williams - known as "Manny" - was recovered after he fell into Big Wheeling Creek on Thursday, said Harry Croft, pastor at Marwin Church of the Nazarene at Wheeling.

Croft said the mother told him that she was walking across the creek with her son and daughter because Manny wanted to catch crawdads. One of the children slipped and the mother grabbed both the boy and his sister in the swift current.

"She lost her grip on Manny," the pastor said.

The 4-year-old boy was found about a quarter mile from where he fell into a creek, which usually runs about ankle deep but rose to about 6 feet deep when Jackson County was pounded with 9 inches of rain in 16 hours.

Bob Bibbee with the Ravenswood Fire Department said the boy was outside with his grandfather, who jumped in after the boy but the water was rushing too quickly. Neighbors, alerted by the sound of the family's screams, tried to help save the boy but were also unable to reach him.

Across the state line, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in Alleghany County and Covington. Three emergency workers were injured during a water rescue in Alleghany County, officials said.