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 her 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 that the woman misjudged the depth of the water and ran into the road until she realized it was too deep. She then attempted to remove the child from the vehicle, 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 the muddy conditions, hampering authorities in their search, the statement said. The incident remains under investigation.
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, according to the county’s office of emergency services. The landslide also uprooted some houses and at least one resident had to be assisted from his home. No injuries were reported and the State Police are investigating.
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 dozens of students to hunker down 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.
“At this point, the students are resting and settling in for the night,” the school district said in a notice posted to its Facebook page and website shortly before midnight.
Cribs, blankets, pillows and other supplies were donated by community members, shops and churches, school officials said, and staff members remained in place to supervise students.
Photos on Lincoln County High School’s Facebook page showed students playing board games in the cafeteria. They watched a movie and some students threw a soccer ball and played basketball in the gym. Pizza, juice boxes, and other donated foods were scattered on the tables.
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.
“Hopefully, a safe window will be available soon to transport students home,” the school district said in an afternoon advisory. “Meal preparation plans for dinner are underway. We will share updates as conditions change. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to focus on the safety of our students.”
In Kansas City, Kansas, doctors at the University of Kansas have issued a call to the public to be careful after spending Thursday treating people who suffered broken wrists and even concussions from falling after an eight-to-night freezing drizzle. ten hours on the floor coated throughout the area with a thin glaze 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.