At the height of the flooding in this tiny town, water poured over the tops of the telephone booths at Jack's Foodliner and swirled just below the overhead neon "Steaks" sign at the G&R Restaurant.

It inundated Hook Newcomb's garage, turned Police Chief Harry Hood's brick ranch house into an island, washed away Leonard Dudley's trailer, and left the money in the cash register at Robinson's Barber Shop covered with mud.

Today, with flood waters from the rampaging James River receding, the 1,200 residents of this Western Virginia community at the foot of the Blue Ridge near Roanoke got their first chance to survey the damage the river had done over the past two days. Many were in shock.

The railroad depot had been washed off its foundation, and slammed into the side of Powell's Market 20 feet away. The swinging wooden foot bridge over the James was gone; all that remained was a piece of its cable, dangling in the brown depths of the river.

No one was seriously injured in this latest of many battles between Buchanan and the river, but that was about the only comfort for the beleaguered townspeople.

"This is the worst it has ever been -- the whole downtown is gone, just about," said 72-year-old William McGraw, the vice mayor. "It's worse than 1913, and that was the worst ever."

"You can't help but be depressed when you see everything you own washed down the river," said Terry Austin, a local electrical contractor whose 2,000-square-foot warehouse was washed away.

The dry cleaners was gone. Big Daddy's restaurant was still there, but heavily damaged. Buster Thrasher's car wash and the old fire station were gone. Sink's Grocery is "probably somewhere down in Arcadia right now," said David Mullins, a Botetourt County deputy sheriff.

There still wasn't any electricity, and lots of people were without water. The town sewers weren't working, either, and Wesley Taylor, the town's maintenance superintendent, hadn't been able to reach the treatment plant upriver. "I may not even have a building when I get there," he said.

The telephones worked, but that was scant consolation to a town that has lost untold millions of dollars of posessions, merchandise and jobs. Childhood photos -- gone. Clothing -- gone. Furniture -- gone. Jobs -- gone.

Heritage Classics, a newly renovated furniture company that employed 10 people and promised 20 more jobs in the near future, was totally destroyed. The Glad Rags Clothing Co., Buchanan's largest employer with a work force of 150, also was taken by the river.

Probably no one suffered more than Wayne Thompson, a building supplier who lost five buildings and an estimated $500,000 worth of uninsured lumber, hardware and other property. He also lost one of his two helicopters.

"The only thing left is a cinderblock wall, and that will probably have to be razed," he said.

Thompson said that he, like many others living near the river, had not been able to afford flood insurance in recent years because of high premiums. "I fight the river three or four times a year," he said, "but I've always had time before. This time, there was just no warning, no time."

Jane's Kitchen used to be a favorite gathering spot in Buchanan. "It had good homemade food, and the best cup of coffee this side of heaven," said deputy sheriff Mullins.

The white clapboard building was bulldozed today after it was deemed beyond repair. Watching were Sgt. Carl Delp, the town's only patrolman, and his wife Jane, owner of the restaurant.

"We got our piggybanks, but we ain't got nothing else," said Irene Collins, walking up Main Street with her daughter, Sharon Floyd.

At its peak, the flood surged down Lowe and Water streets, which are next to the river, carrying with it mountains of brush, old tires, wheelbarrows, and tons of now useless things that were once someone's possessions.

The torrent smashed windows and collapsed porches. It drove a blue pick-up truck into a tree outside Powell's Grocery, flooded the town's baseball field, and left a yellow snowplow blade poking skyward from a pasture that had become part of the James.

Chief Hood apologized for the mess littering his Jeep Scrambler -- the Cheetos bags and tobacco pouches -- but said he has pretty much been living in the four-wheel-drive vehicle for two days.

The only real problem so far, he said, is that looters early yesterday stole 100 cases of beer from the damaged Stop In convenience store. "And, I anticipate some more problems tonight," he said.

Although the town had requested help from the National Guard, no troops had shown up yet, Hood said. All the cleanup work was being done by the residents using their own mops, brooms, trucks and bulldozers.

In Ralph's Lunch, soggy cigarette packages, overturned stools and boxes of Reynolds Wrap littered the floor. About the only thing not ruined, it seemed, was the sign over the grill that reads "Chuckwagon Steak On A Bun -- 95 cents."

Nearby, at Robinson's Barber Shop, Vera Robinson, wearing muddy rubber boots and a scarf tied around her head, broke into tears as she tried to describe the devastation.

The shop's three hydraulic barber chairs were ruined, she said, and the floor was covered with several inches of thick, brown goo in which floated what looked like bottles of shampoo.

"We don't really know how we feel," she said, watching her husband carry out plastic bags of debris.

"We're just grateful that the windows didn't break, and that the walls didn't cave in.

"We're grateful for the friends that have helped, and we know that there are people in this valley worse off than we are. But the only thing is, this is my husband's living. We don't know when he'll be able to make any more money."