Field of streams

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

CHESAPEAKE — John Smith watched the rain come down and then the water come up nearly two weeks ago.

When he saw his hay fields under water he turned to his wife and said, “We’ve lost it.”

And unfortunately, he was right.

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Recent flash flooding ruined approximately 50 acres of his 70-acre hay crop.

According to a report from the National Resource Conservation District, some parts of Lawrence County got 4-4-1/2 inches of water in just three hours on June 4.

And the rain seemed to come in waves throughout that day and the next. Some area agencies and residents are still trying to cope with the results of the flash flooding that followed.

A mess

While many parts of the county were affected by the early June flash flooding, the areas that saw the most homes damaged were Elizabeth Township and Waterloo.

As of Thursday, the county had 15 homes in the major damage category, 50 homes that were classified as “affected” and 15 homes in the minor category, according to Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Boster. He said most of the homes that sustained major damage were on County Road 27 and County Road 4.

Now for more bad news: Boster said there is not enough damage to allow local officials to ask for a federal disaster declaration. Federal guidelines state there must be 25 homes that sustained major damage. Boster said while the area is unable to get a federal declaration, he would like to see if there is any state funding. The state does have some programs in place but some of them are not funded.

Local officials have agreed to send a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland, advising him of the damage.

“We know there are people who are hurting and we want to try to help people as much as possible,” Boster said.

Boster said he is checking with various private organizations to see if they can help. He said he hoped area churches and civic groups would also step up to the challenge.

Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Service Director Gene Myers said some low-income families with children may be eligible for assistance through the Prevention, Retention and Contingency (PRC) program. Those who are interested may call the JFS office at (740) 532- 3324.

Boster said the Red Cross has provided assistance to at least three families who needed emergency housing.

Ruined fields

The flash flooding affected more than just homes.

Farmers who rely on crops to pay their bills and feed their livestock saw their corn, hay and produce crops submerged by the recent flash flooding. And with those crops, many saw their pocketbooks submerged as well.

Jim Herrell, county executive director for the Farm Service Agency, said most farmers lost 30-50 percent of their crops and some lost much more. Some farmers living near streams lost 100 percent of their crops.

Herrell said the estimated loss to Lawrence County’s overall corn crop is $151,000. For hay, that figure is $125,000. Soybean losses are estimated at $107,000 and wheat at $17,000.

Produce crop losses, such as tomatoes and sweet corn, are estimated at $250,000.

Reynolds said some people who have lost crops are hesitant to spend money at this point to replant and Herrell agreed.

“With corn, it’s getting to be a question of whether it’s too late. You could still plant and have an above average crop but every day now, it’s going to get tougher and tougher to make an average crop,” Herrell said. “Some are going to try.”

Smith said he was going to use the hay he lost for feed for his own cattle and often sells hay to horse owners. He is not sure what he will do now.

But Smith will tell you weather woes are part of farming and in spite of his loss, he knows other farmers are hurting, too.

“I’m thankful I didn’t have any corn in the ground. I didn’t lose that,” Smith said.

He wasn’t feeling well earlier this year and opted not to mess with corn. But he knows some neighbors lost their crops.

Like many farmers, Smith watched the drought mar crops last year. And then prices for everything from fuel to feed to fertilizer have risen. Then came the flash flooding and farmers likely feel like they’ve been punched in the gut three times.

“It’s very disheartening,” Herrell said. “You go through the drought (last year) and then get flooded out the next.”

Potholes, landslides

Township trustees as well as county and state road crews are now battling potholes, clogged ditches and other flash-flood-related maintenance chores, and reports followed the flooding show the to-do list is a long one.

According to a report issued by Ralph Crawford, district conservationist for the National Resource Conservation District, a bridge on County Road 31 was damaged because of the flood. Boster said four township bridges have been damaged by the flood: on Township Road 140E and Township Road 198 in Aid and two on Township Road 160 in Elizabeth Township.

There were also three landslides, one on North Huntington Heights in Chesapeake, one on Symmes Creek Road and one on Township Road 170 in Union Township. Fixing these slides could cost as much as $800,000.

Lawrence Soil and Water Conservation District Office Office Manager Peggy Reynolds said her staff is also getting numerous calls about log jams on area streams.

Reynolds said when the soil and water conservation board meets soon, it will discuss sending a letter to Congress to see if there is any federal assistance available to help with this problem.

“In Lawrence County, this is a problem,” Reynolds said. “We’ve got jams that could cause some structural damage.