As a deluge swamped southeast West Virginia—a disaster that killed at least 18 people—Ronnie Scott's wife called him and told him their house was filling up with water. She fled to the attic with two dogs and a cat and waited. She smelled natural gas. Then, the house blew up. Belinda Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch, then make it onto a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police, Ronnie Scott told the AP on Friday. His wife was in the hospital with burns on 67% of her body. The pets did not make it out alive. "My wife was out there four and a half hours hanging in a tree with a house burning right beside her, flood waters running all around her," said Scott, who was not at the White Sulphur Springs home when the waters rose.
Early reports indicate about 9 inches of rain damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands of others, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. 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 from their car. "Our focus remains on search and rescue," the governor said during a news conference. He added: "It's been a long 24 hours and the next 24 hours may not be much easier." The deaths included an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy who were swept away in rushing creek waters in different counties, authorities said. Currently 200 National Guardsmen were assisting in eight counties, helping local crews with swift water rescues, search and extraction efforts and health and welfare checks. The governor declared a state of emergency in 44 of 54 counties and authorized up to 500 soldiers to assist. (Read more West Virginia stories.)