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West Virginia flood victims can return to homes — if they’re still there

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CLENDENIN, W. Va. (CNN) — The floodwaters are receding in parts of West Virginia, and although Sunday’s weather boded well for a region hammered by the nation’s worst flash flooding in years, some have found coming home as jarring as being evacuated.

Clendenin was one of the towns hardest hit by the flooding that has killed 24 people. Thick, slippery mud coated streets in the town of 1,200 residents, located about 30 miles northeast of the state capital of Charleston.

Flash flooding washed a pickup truck into a bog, inundated homes and businesses and pushed a Dairy Queen right out from under its awning, one end of which sat Sunday on the knee-high parking barriers in the burger joint’s parking lot.

Teresa Candler was allowed to return to her home Sunday, or what was left of it. Rooms in the house had been ripped apart, the refrigerator was flipped over and furniture had been tossed about the living room, according to CNN affiliate WSAZ.

Candler and relatives tried to salvage what they could, but even her family photos were covered in mud. Her daughter estimated it could take months to clean up.
“It’s devastating,” Candler told the station. “The last time I looked out I saw the roof of my house and that’s all I’ve seen and it was gone.”

David Ross, whose family was forced to move its valuables upstairs when floodwaters filled the home, said it’s the worst flooding he’d seen in the state in almost four decades.
“We ran out of time,” Ross told CNN on Saturday. “We couldn’t get everything up, and when the water started coming into the house, it didn’t stop until we had almost four feet of water on my main floor, and it’s never been that way.”

Appalachian Power, which serves the Charleston area, said late Saturday night that roughly 15,000 customers remained without electricity. The utility must make repairs to its infrastructure before it can restore power to residents in the area.

In Clay County, a substation was flooded and its access road was destroyed, and in Kanawha County, where Clendenin is located, the substation was submerged.

“Workers are in the process of transporting and installing a mobile transformer this evening and into tomorrow,” the utility said. It is expected to be energized by Sunday evening, which will allow power to be restored to most customers in that area by Monday night.

Rescue crews worked Sunday to answer emergency calls from residents stranded by the fast-moving floodwaters. It’s the nation’s highest death toll from flash floods since May 2010, when 27 people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Heavy rain battered much of West Virginia earlier this week, with as much as 10 inches of rain falling in a brief period Thursday.

Water poured out of creeks and rivers. The Elk River, which runs alongside Clendenin, crested at 33.37 feet Friday morning, meteorologists said.

The river rose more than 27 feet from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, the highest crest since record-keeping began more than 125 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.

The high waters began receding Saturday, but officials warned residents to watch out for “flood debris, downed power lines and downed trees.” CNN meteorologists said no more rain is expected until Monday.

A handful of people converged on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday evening, writing messages for family and friends and lighting candles for those lost in the flooding, reported CNN affiliate WVAH. They ended by singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the station said.

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