Flooding forces evacuations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

Today, you will likely need your sunglasses; yesterday, area residents who even dared to venture out needed an umbrella and maybe even a boat.

Heavy rains from repeated thunderstorms sent creeks and streams out of their banks, flooding roadways, yards and in some cases, even houses.

Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Boster said high water forced the evacuation of some families throughout the county Wednesday afternoon and evening.

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Officials will begin today to assess damage.

“We know that roadways and utility infrastructure, homes and properties all over the county might have been affected,” Boster said. “We will need to gather information such as names, addresses and types and amounts of damage from people who were affected. We need to physically look at any damaged homes or businesses to estimate the amount of damage.”

The types and amount of damages must meet a certain criteria before local elected officials can declare a disaster or state of emergency and request assistance from state or federal levels.

Those residents and business owners who sustained damages may call the EMA office in Ironton at (740) 533-4375 between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

One of the heaviest parts of Lawrence County for rainfall was around the Waterloo area where the two-day total reached almost 5 inches. However, total rainfall in the Huntington, W.Va., area was about 3 inches.

“The nature of thunderstorms is it is a hit and miss thing,”

David Marsalek, meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Charleston, W.Va., said. “The heaviest rain falls in a small area. It just depends on who gets it. There was a stationary frontal boundary to the north and a lot of moisture in the atmosphere. That is why the rain that came out of it was so heavy.”

As of 8:30 this morning there were still 1,500 American Electric Power customers without service, many of them isolated, and there were scattered cases throughout the Ironton-Chesapeake area.

“There are broken poles, trees and a lot of high water hampering us,” said Vicki Michalski, AEP spokeswoman. “We anticipate 90 percent restoration by 5 p.m. and 100 percent by 9 p.m.”

Debra Sword, a spokeswoman with Buckeye Rural Electric said 1,630 of its customers were out of service last night, but that number was down to 365 this morning. She said the company hopes to have power restored to those customers by noon.

The Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 officials said parts of State Route 141 at Arabia and State Route 217 at Linnville will remain closed until further notice today because of high water.

Ohio State Highway Patrol dispatchers said part of State Route 93 between Ellisonville and Pedro was closed for a time Wednesday afternoon because of water over the roadway. A few vehicles became stuck while attempting to drive through the water. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Lawless said at one point, the Proctorville Fire Department brought a boat to State Route 93 to help with the rescue of the stranded motorists.

“We are grateful for the assistance of the fire departments, some of whom came out of their own areas to provide assistance,” Lawless said.

Boster urged people not to drive though standing water.

“Motorists should not drive onto flooded roadways and into water-covered areas. It only takes a few inches of water to float most passenger vehicles, creating a rescue situation for passengers,” Boster said.

Both Boster and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office personnel said the calls for help to their offices came from far and wide during the worst part of Wednesday afternoon’s storm.

“We were extremely busy,” Lawless said. “It was a mess.”

Some of the emergencies Wednesday were:

— A family on County Road 48 at Waterloo was reportedly trapped inside their house by rising water and had to be rescued by boat.

— A fallen tree blocked part of County Road 1 in South Point.

— County Road 4 in Decatur was flooded.

— Three feet of water covered the roadway on State Route 243 outside Coal Grove near Blue Flame gas.

— Water covered part of Sugar Creek-Johnstown Road.

— Township Road 102 outside Coal Grove was flooded for a time.

— A tree fell near the 16 milemarker on State Route 243.

— Deputies and Upper Township firefighters were called to investigate a possible lightning strike at the Rich Oil gasoline station on State Route 93 in Elizabeth Township. Lawless said authorities checked but could not make a determination on whether or not there was a lightning strike.

Boster praised all of the county’s emergency responders for their work throughout the day and evening to clear downed trees, divert traffic from water-logged areas and handle other weather-related emergencies.