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County declared disaster area

The Lawrence County Commission early Wednesday declared the county a disaster area, and formally asked the state for assistance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The Lawrence County Commission early Wednesday declared the county a disaster area, and formally asked the state for assistance.

Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Larry Jewell says a number of roads throughout the county are closed, and about twenty homes along Township Road 185, State Route 775 and County Road 18 are under water. The county has established a shelter at the South Point Community Center, and the families who have been displaced are seeking refuge there and with relatives.

Four people and two pets were rescued from the top of their car on Charlie Creek Road shortly after 6 a.m. this morning when the waters rose around their vehicle, and the roadway became impassable.

"The water was up about 10 feet and rising pretty fast," Burlington-Fayette Township Volunteer Fire Department Capt. James Woda said. "We got a boat from a neighbor’s house, and some life jackets that K-Mart donated and got them out."

Water backed up when debris blocked the culvert and collected in a low-lying area.

And if they didn’t have their hands full with the evacuation, a mobile home caught fire at about the same time, Woda said. Residents apparently kicked over a kerosene heater while trying to beat the flood waters.

"The rain and the flood waters put the fire out," Woda said.

No one was injured in the fire, and the people rescued from their car were taken to safety by officials from the emergency management office.

"It’s just a big mess," Jewell said. "We have the South Point Fire Department out in boats, and the U.S. Coast Guard is on its way with boats to help evacuate people."

Burlington and South Point residents saw the water rise early this morning.

"The water is up all around my house," Kenny Johnson, of Burlington, said. "It’s in the back yard, in the front yard."

U.S. 52 at South Point was closed briefly just after 7 a.m. this morning because of high water. It reopened an hour later, according to Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher Drew Fry. Troopers kept watch on a hillside slippage near the patrol post along the eastbound lanes of that highway throughout the day. A mud slide on State Route 7 at Crown City forced the closing of that road for a while this morning.

Ironton residents may have been spared the worst of the flooding, but contended with high water in isolated areas. Ironton Police Department dispatcher Jeannine Reed said logs and other debris washed down and dammed up Storms Creek. City crews were dispatched to alleviate the situation, and prevent the bridge from washing out.

Jewell said members of the Lawrence County amateur radio association (ARES/RACES) have been asked to stand by until further notice, and the American Red Cross was notified of the need for its assistance.

The Red Cross’ disaster plan was placed in motion yesterday, Betsy Ratcliff, chapter manager for the Huntington office, said. Yesterday, volunteers were placed on call and cots were loaded onto the two emergency response vehicles the Red Cross operates.

Volunteers came into the office at about 6:30 this morning, Ratcliff said, monitoring the water situation. A shelter has been established at the Community House in South Point. The Red Cross is providing cots, blankets and food to disaster victims.

"This is big," Jewell said. "It’s going to tax everybody’s patience, but we’re doing everything humanly possible to help as many people as quickly as we can get to them."

Jewell advised that people in low-lying areas should immediately leave their homes and seek shelter on higher ground. People who need assistance with evacuation may call the emergency management office at 533-4375.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Tri-State, including Lawrence County, until 9:30 a.m. today. A flash flood watch will continue through noon, according to meteorologist Tom Mazza.

The weather also forced the closing of many school districts, including Rock Hill, Fairland, Dawson-Bryant, Chesapeake, South Point and Symmes Valley.