After the flood

Published 9:38 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

CHESAPEAKE — Stephen Sheets didn’t know what hit him, until it did. Then it turned out to be a 20-foot wide boulder that came plummeting down the hillside on State Route 7.

“I looked up and saw trees and the next thing I knew everything was coming down,” Sheets, a Chesapeake High School teacher, said. “I saw something out of the corner of my eye.”

That something smashed his black Lexus, as the boulder dived off the hillside onto the westbound lane of the highway, near the Nick Rahall Bridge.

Sheets, his wife and their cat were only shaken, but not hurt.

Now Ohio Department of Transportation workers expect to spend two more full days breaking up the massive rock that shut down that main artery in Lawrence County, detouring motorists into the village of Chesapeake on County Road 1.

“Around 9 a.m. (Wednesday) we received a call that a large boulder had fallen off the hillside and parts of it landed on the highway and broke through the barrier wall,” Kathleen Fuller, ODOT spokeswoman, said.

Both westbound lanes of State Route 7 between U.S. 52 and State Route 527 were shut down Tuesday and remain closed today.

Fuller said it is hoped the highway will be reopened by Friday afternoon, if there isn’t any significant damage to the pavement of the roadway.

A 10-man crew started breaking up the boulder Wednesday, but needed a heavier piece of equipment, which was brought on today. That was a track hoe with a large hammer had to be rented.

“The equipment has to have the right pressure and force to take it apart,” Fuller said. “We have this problem in Southern Ohio. These landslides and slips. It is Mother Nature, the terrain, the geology of land and just the weather.”

The rock segments will be taken to the ODOT garage to be recycled into other projects.

Heavy rains hit the county hard Tuesday and early Wednesday morning covering roadways, washing out bridges and flooding out homeowners.

But by Wednesday afternoon ODOT reported State Route 93 and State Route 775, shut down by the flooding, were open to traffic again.

That left only State Route 650 closed between Kelley’s Mill Road and Little Pine Creek Road.

It was a tragic déj vu for Bob Dalton, who had to watch floodwaters ravage his home for the second time in as many months. Back in May heavy rains broke through the basement wall of his home on State Route 93.

Good Samaritans from the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Dublin came down at the end of June to help rebuild the structure.

By Wednesday morning all that work was wiped out.

Larry Conn’s bridge driveway was washed away early Wednesday morning. Conn, who lives at 3417 State Route 93, awoke around 2 a.m. during a thunderstorm to find the electricity was out. Conn works just up the street from his house at Lawrence County Juvenile Center.

Because of the power outage he decided to drive over to check on the center. He was about to back his truck out of the garage when he noticed the water flowing over where the bridge had been.

“I went and got a flashlight and saw that it was gone,” he said.

Conn, who is in the process of buying the house, does not have flood insurance. He’s waiting on an estimate to see what the damage will cost him.

Besides the driveway, the rainfall caused flooding in his garage and basement as well.

“There’s a lot of people up here worse off than I was,” he said.

Across the street from Conn, the water took out Maggie Davis’s garden and flooded her garage and basement.

“I just can’t believe it,” Davis said. “It just doesn’t happen on this side of the road.”

On County Road 29 in the Wayne National Forest, creek flooding took out one lane of a bridge built as a WPA project during the Depression.

“It’s a county bridge, I guess the county is making plans to repair it,” said Marsha Wikle assistant ranger of the Ironton Ranger District. “We haven’t heard what those plans are.”

The road has been closed for now.

“It’s not really safe to even walk on,” she said.

A boat launch in the forest has also been closed because of debris. Wikle said the district plans to open the boat launch and the beach by the weekend or the first of next week. A large pine tree fell on an administrative building of the park service as well.

“We took a hit,” Wikle said.