Battling Mother Nature

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

Five-year-old Victoria Smith loved to play in her backyard full of toys. Now, she has only a soggy, swamp land to frolic in as most of her playthings have been washed away.

Exact figures of the damage remain unclear as hundreds of families were impacted by Friday's more than 5-inches of heavy rains brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan. Creeks across Lawrence County licked ever closer to homes and travel on many rural roads was nearly impossible.

But David and Dana Smith of 2210 State Route 243 know they were among the lucky ones. Little Ice Creek bulged and took over their backyard for the second time in little more than a week. The family was able to save the trampoline, basketball goal and family dog, but everything else was a loss.

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"All the kids toys are gone," David Smith said Friday as he stood in the pouring rains looking out over the creek that was just a dozen feet from the house. "I figure we will find them down the creek somewhere."

Many people who lived on Township Road 296 that runs behind the Smith's house had to wade through knee-high water to get to their houses.

"We do feel fortunate as bad as it has got," David said. "If it had come up any farther, I don't know what we would have done. I don't think we would have lost the house but we may have lost everything outside."

Elizabeth Cremeans of 119 Wilson Court in South Point was one of the many who was not so lucky.

Cremeans does not live by the Ohio River. She does not live by any creeks. Still, her entire four-bedroom, brick home was flooded with up to 4-inches of water.

"I am just not believing this can happen," Cremeans said with the emotion evident in her voice. "Two and a half years ago we lost everything. I took my (retirement) money. I took a loan I am still paying on. … I don't even know what to say."

Mattresses, carpet, furniture, books shelves, children's clothes. All have been ruined.

Cremeans had been trying to sell the home before this disaster. Now her real-estate agent has told her that they can't help her. One of the most frustrating parts for her has been not knowing why it happened. She called village officials. She called county officials. She called the railroad company. She called the Lawrence County Emergency Management. So far, she has received little help.

The railroad came an moved a boulder and some trees and the EMA office told her that federal assistance may be available if enough people report flood damage. Still, a lack of clear answer or solution has been tough on her.

"When you are in a panic situation, you don't know who to turn to," she said.

Even though sunshine peeked through the clouds Saturday, those like Cremeans were still trying to pick up, and dry off, the pieces. Lawrence County Road Supervisor Don Lambert has had a front-row seat to see all the damage.

"This is the worst I've seen it, and it's not just in a few places, it's all over the place. I think every creek we've got is out of its banks," Lambert said of the high water. "We have some road slips that we're trying to take care of. We had one on Middle Paddy that started before the rain and now it's worse."

Lambert said he could not recall immediately where the other slips are.

He also said road crews spent Friday cutting up trees that had fallen down because of the rain. Lambert said crews have had to contend with flood woes

from hurricanes Ivan and Frances and this has taken time and attention away from bridge work and other regular road work.

So, the rains may be gone for now, it will be weeks before life returns to normal for many.