Severe storms deluge county

Published 10:21 am Thursday, June 18, 2009

IRONTON — Strong storms accompanied by gusty winds and deadly lightning pounded most of Lawrence County Tuesday and early Wednesday resulting in flash floods and extensive damage.

No portion of the county was spared, however hardest hit were homes near Pedro where flash flooding occurred and property on the county’s southwest side.

Jason Franklin, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston, W. Va., said the area has been hit with more than five inches of rain since Friday.

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Add that to the 15 inches of rain Lawrence County has seen since the start of spring and the county has received more than 20 inches of rain in the past three months.

“We have seen an extremely wet period during the last month in that area,” Franklin said. For 2009, the county has seen four-and-a-half more inches of rain than its normal average precipitation levels.

High winds ripped apart trees and knocked out power in Franklin Furnace. Water was so deep in areas early Wednesday that certain roads were unable to be passed by automobiles.

Come sunrise, the sound of wind and rain were replaced by the hums of tree removal services surveying the damage.

In Elizabeth Township, surveying the damage was all Mike Newcomb could do.

Newcomb, who lives on Township Road 179, was awoken just after midnight Wednesday to the sounds of rushing water and crashing of equipment and vehicles.

Opening the door to his trailer, Newcomb watched in horror as nearly everything he owned was swept away by the rapidly rising waters of Storms Creek.

“I lost everything I had,” said Newcomb who has lived on the property since 1986. “I never have seen anything like that before here.”

The rapidly moving water was so powerful that it swept away Newcomb’s tool shed and equipment, numerous ATV’s and his 1992 Honda Accord which after the water subsided, was found to be destroyed sitting three feet up in a tree.

The creek was so high that for a time, Newcomb, along with his girlfriend and two sons were trapped in his trailer.

Most of his children’s toys and clothes were also lost.

Adding to the damage was that Newcomb had just dropped the insurance on many of his possessions following being laid off from Empire Metal Recycling.

The city of Ironton hasn’t been spared from the rain and flooding either.

Many residents on the city’s upper south side have had to endure constant basement flooding since a strong storm hit the city last Friday.

Kim Schwab, who lives in the 2400 block of South Tenth St., said flooding from the storms has resulted in more than $5,000 worth of damage to her basement which also serves as a home office.

“The basement is my business and as a result, I can’t operate my business,” said Schwab who added that nearly all contents of the basement were destroyed or had to be thrown away from water damage. “I cried for four days.”

Much of the flooding was caused by a combination of a heavy and quick rainfall along with a combined sewer lines unable to carry the large amount of rainwater produced. Many homes in the area have downspouts still connected to sewer lines – something the city has requested Ironton residents avoid doing.

Schwab indicated homeowners in the area have also been using city sewer lines to dispose of grass clippings which are notorious for clogging sewer lines and causing backups.

The forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t look promising either. The National Weather Service is calling for a slight chance of showers Thursday with heavy rain predicted for Friday and strong storms for Saturday.