Photo: AP

Obama declared a major disaster in West Virginia Saturday night following historic flash flooding in the state that has left at least 23 dead and some 32,000 without power, according to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s latest count.

State and local recovery efforts began on Wednesday when areas of West Virginia began experiencing flooding, landslides, and mudslides.

The President’s announcement will free up federal funding for individuals affected in Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties, providing them with temporary housing, home repairs and loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Some areas of West Virginia experienced the worst flash flooding in a century, according to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. The flooding seriously damaged or destroyed 100 homes, Tomblin said.

The scale of the damage was due in part to the speed at which the flood approached some areas, catching people off-guard. Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Broadcasting told NPR on Friday:

The flash floods have tremendous power—we have reports of boulders in the middle of downtowns, people were literally running up trees to escape it. And then some stories of amazing heroism, of first responders rescuing a woman who was up to her neck in a car before she drowned. So it was fast, it was furious.