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Flood waters strand students, wreck homes in Logan Co.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Flash floods across southern West Virginia blocked highways, wrecked homes and businesses and temporarily trapped some children in their schools Thursday.

The National Weather Service in Charleston issued a flash flood warning for Logan, Lincoln, Mingo, and Boone counties about 9:45 a.m.

Simone Lewis, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Logan received between two- and three-and-a-half inches of rain from mid-morning to the afternoon.

Eastern Mingo County received about the same amount, while southern Mingo received about two-and-a-half inches.

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It was still raining in Logan and Lincoln counties Thursday evening. Lewis said more precipitation is on the way, too. Showers and thunderstorms are expected through the rest of the weekend for southern West Virginia.

"There's the potential that these showers and thunderstorms could have heavy rain in them and we could see additional problems," Lewis said. "It's very possible."

She said the National Weather Service would extend the warnings if meteorologists decide more rain is imminent. The warnings were set to expire at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Robert Jelacic, operations shift leader for the West Virginia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office, said Thursday evening the office had not dispatched any emergency personnel to flooded areas.

He said officials would wait until floodwaters recede today to determine where emergency services are needed. Until then the office was only providing "imminent life-saving" services, Jelacic said. The office had several swift water rescue teams on standby Thursday.

"Until we get first light and we can see what's going on, that's all we'll be responding to," he said.

Both Lincoln and Logan County Schools dismissed classes early on Thursday.

Patricia Lucas, superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, said administrators decided about 10:30 a.m. to dismiss children three hours early.

"Had we been able to anticipate that much rain in that short amount of time, we would never have dismissed the students off the buses to go in the building. We would have turned them around," she said.

Lucas said the National Weather Service told administrators earlier on Thursday that the area would receive an hour-and-a-half of rain before it stopped.

"There was no break," she said.

Fast-rising waters trapped some students in Duval Middle School.

"The ground was so saturated it couldn't handle it," Principal Kim Clayton said.

"The road was a river. The parking lot was a river. The teachers had to move their cars around back. The whole playground was flooded. I remember seeing five TVs go by, tires and a trampoline," she said.

The school was surrounded by water early Thursday afternoon but only a quarter inch of water entered a back stairwell that is seldom used.

The waters eventually receded enough to send children who live east of the school home.

About 30 students who live west of the school, toward Hamlin, were still stuck on Thursday evening. School cooks prepared them a dinner of sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

Clayton said some students might have to spend the night at school.

Lincoln schools will not be open today because of a previously scheduled "outside school environment" day.

Wilma Zigmond, superintendent of Logan County Schools, said her county had already scheduled an early dismissal for Thursday. Some students didn't leave school fast enough, however.

Students and staff at Verdunville Elementary near Mudfork were stuck at the school Thursday night. Water did not reach the school, which sits on a hill, but all roads leading to it were blocked.

"Nobody's going anywhere," Zigmond said.

About 60 students were stuck inside. Zigmond said staff and students were safe and would have dinner at the school.

Fourteen Chapmanville-area students spent their evening at Chapmanville Middle School, and 21 from the Logan-area elementary, middle and high schools were stuck at Logan Middle School.

Zigmond canceled classes for today.

"We were so excited because we only thought we were going to have two snow days this year. Well, we did. Now we have a flood day," she said.

Southern Community and Technical College received some water damage when Mud Fork flooded.

Joanne Tomblin, West Virginia's first lady and president of the college, said she had not visited the campus on Thursday. She was in Putnam County for a meeting and, by the time she reached Logan, could not get to the college.

She said administrators on campus told her water flooded the first floor of the school's Allied Health and Technology Building.

Internet videos showed water flooding through the campus and carrying away parked cars.

Tomblin said some faculty and staff were trapped on campus Thursday evening but everyone was fine. She was not sure how many people were trapped.

Savannah Wellman, a nursing student at Southern, said about 50 people were still at the college when she left campus at 1 p.m.

Wellman and several other nursing students climbed an embankment behind the college to reach U.S. 119, and had family members pick them up on the highway.

Tomblin said the college would have to wait until waters recede to assess the damage.

"Very luckily, next week is our spring break. It will give us some time to get things done before students get back," Tomblin said.


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