The body of a newborn baby was found in a submerged car Friday in southern West Virginia after floodwaters swept across the state, authorities said.
The flooding occurred amid a series of thunderstorms that inundated the South and dumped nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) of rain in parts of West Virginia. Thunderstorms were possible Friday from the Florida Panhandle to the North Carolina coast, National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Oravec said.
A woman called 911 saying her car was stuck in high water in the Fayette County town of Pax and she couldn’t find the baby. Sheriff Mike Fridley said in a statement Friday afternoon that the vehicle was found submerged with the 11-week-old baby inside.
Investigators determined the woman misjudged the depth of the water and drove on the road until she realized it was too deep. She then attempted to remove the child but the vehicle was swept away.
The area where the vehicle was recovered had water up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) deep. Visibility in the water was close to zero due to muddy conditions, hampering the search. The incident remains under investigation, the statement said.
West Virginia, where towns along narrow river valleys dot the landscape, is no stranger to devastating floods. In June 2016, 23 people were killed in floods across the state.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of not driving through floodwaters,” Fridley said. “The depth of water is very difficult to judge, just as it is difficult to judge the speed of moving water.”
In Mingo County, along West Virginia’s border with Kentucky and Virginia, a mudslide toppled some railroad cars loaded with coal, the county’s office of emergency services said.
The landslide was caused by the collapse of a sediment ditch in a coal mining operation operated by Coal-Mac LLC, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Terry Fletcher said in an email.
The landslide also uprooted one house and surrounded another with mud and water and at least one resident had to be assisted from his home. No injuries were reported and state police are investigating.
The DEP has ordered the coal operator to find temporary housing for affected residents, stabilize and repair the area around the slide, and remove mud and debris from homes, Fletcher said. The equipment was brought in to begin the cleanup.
Officials canceled school classes on Friday in 10 West Virginia counties. In Kanawha County, the state’s largest school bus lines have been modified or closed due to flooded roads. Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency Thursday as the storms passed.
In Lincoln County, floodwaters forced about 170 students from three different schools into a squat Thursday night at an impromptu sleepover.
Schools in the county in the southern part of the state were closed two hours early Thursday because of high water, which made many roads impassable. Parents who could drive to school could pick up their children, but many students were forced to stay put.
Community members, stores and churches donated cribs, blankets, pillows and other supplies, and staff members remained on site to supervise students, school officials said.
Photos on Lincoln County High School’s Facebook page showed students playing board games in Hamlin’s school cafeteria. They watched a movie and some threw a soccer ball and played basketball in the gym. Pizza, juice boxes, and other donated foods were scattered on the tables. A similar situation occurred among students at two elementary-middle schools in the county.
After breakfast and lunch were served on Friday, the floodwaters on the streets still hadn’t receded enough, so school officials decided to make plans to serve dinner again. On Friday evening, it was determined that the water level had dropped enough for the students to leave.
“We just put our last few students on buses to go home, so we’re waiting for confirmation that we’ve delivered all those students,” Lincoln County School Superintendent Jeffrey Kelley said by phone Friday night. “We have a great group of people who are committed to children and doing the right thing. This makes these difficult situations much easier.
In Kansas City, Kansas, doctors at the University of Kansas issued a public caution after spending Thursday treating people who suffered broken wrists and concussions from falling after a freezing drizzle that lasted eight to 10 hours, blanketing the whole area with a thin layer of ice.
Some parents were holding babies in their arms when they fell, causing injuries to the youngsters, the hospital said in a news release.
Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth of Mission, Kansas contributed to this report.
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