November 4, 1985: Flooding from Tropical Storm Juan

Floodwaters roar past a house in Parsons during the 1985 flood

In the predawn hours of November 4, 1985, a large band of rain began forming from North Carolina to West Virginia. The storm was stronger than most because it was picking up moisture from Tropical Storm Juan, which had hit the Southeast just days before. 

During the morning of the fourth, the front moved northward and pulled in additional moisture from the Atlantic. As the downpour intensified, West Virginia’s rivers began to rise. The rain finally began to let up after midnight on the fifth. But, the damage was done. Four to eight inches of rain had inundated the northern and eastern parts of the state, producing deadly flooding.

The Cheat, Greenbrier, Tygart Valley, Little Kanawha, and West Fork rivers along with the North and South Branches of the Potomac River all crested well above flood stage. The flooding devastated the towns of Parsons, Rowlesburg, Philippi, Marlinton, Glenville, Petersburg, and Moorefield. Despite heroic rescue efforts by first responders, 47 West Virginians died in the 1985 flood, with Pendleton and Grant counties suffering the most deaths. Many of the towns had to rebuild nearly from scratch, and some have never fully recovered.