Repeat storms hit OH, IN

A seemingly never-ending series of thunderstorms has caused major flooding in Indiana and Ohio.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | July 9, 2003


A seemingly never-ending series of thunderstorms has caused major flooding in Indiana and Ohio and prompted the governors of both states to issue emergency declarations.

Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon declared 25 counties in the central and northern areas of his state, and Ohio Governor Bob Taft issued declarations for two northwestern counties, Van Wert and Mercer.

The Ohio list, however, is likely to grow and may soon include Darke, Logan, Shelby and Auglaize counties, said Rob Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

"As we keep getting hit with this weather, the list is likely to grow longer," Taylor said.

Both declarations may lead to assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, pending approval from President Bush.

The Wednesday declarations came after a deluge of rain that began on July 4, continued through the weekend, and reached a brief lull on Monday and Tuesday, until more rain began to fall on Tuesday night. The northwestern corner of Ohio received between 15 and 18 inches of rain since July 4, said meteorologist John Franks, with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, Ohio, and areas of Indiana have received comparable rainfall.

In Indiana, the St. Mary's River has reached unprecedented flood levels, surpassing the 1913 flood that was 26.5 feet above flood stage, said meteorologist Michael Sabones, with the National Weather Service in Syracuse, Ind. This time the river crested at 26.9 feet in the town of Decatur.

Salvation Army emergency teams were sent to Howard, Adams, Allen and Wells counties in Indiana. Salvation Army canteens equipped with generators, first-aid supplies and food are assisting people and emergency response workers in some of the hardest-hit areas. In addition, Salvation Army corps and community centers are providing emergency shelter and services to residents affected by the flooding.

The Salvation Army also has assembled and distributed more than 1,000 hygiene and flood kits to residents battling to save their homes and clean up their damaged homes. Additionally, The Salvation Army is providing vouchers for groceries, food and basic living necessities to residents hardest hit by the storms.

In northeastern Indiana, Salvation Army volunteers have joined relief workers, including 167 members of the Indiana National Guard as well as about 40 prison inmates, who are sandbagging the river here as the well as the upper Wabash River in the town of Bluffton, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the Indiana Emergency Management Agency.

So far the sandbagging seems to be working. "At this point, they're holding on," Taylor said.

However, more rain is expected Wednesday night, and people along the riverbanks are preparing for the worst.

"It doesn't look good out there," said Mary Dieter, a spokeswoman for Governor Frank O'Bannon's office.

"We'll definitely have another round of storms tonight," Sabones said. Whether there will be more flooding, he said, "just depends on how it evolves."

Areas that have already been flooded out, such as the town of Kokomo, were experiencing a resurgence of floodwater.

Damage assessments are still vague, since water levels have not receded enough to permit thorough investigations, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the Indiana Emergency Management Agency.

In Kokomo, between 500 and 600 homes were damaged, said Larry Smith, director of the Howard County Emergency Management Agency. Smith estimated that his estimate was a "conservative" number.

In the Alexandria, a town of 5,500 people about 35 miles northeast of Indianapolis, water flowed over a levee Wednesday morning, forcing the evacuation of 30 homes, according to Acting Mayor Don Ingram. The flooding had been contained by Wednesday afternoon and water levels were receding, but Ingram said that the town would likely see more problems if any more rain fell Wednesday night, as was forecast.

Urban flooding has also been reported in Fort Wayne, Ind., although no damage estimates have been made available.

The small town of Wilshire, in Van Wert County, Ohio, experienced severe flooding Wednesday, said Rob Glenn, but damage estimates were not available. The worst damage in Ohio, however, was in Mercer County, where seven homes were destroyed, 35 had major damage and another 55 had minor damage, he said.

Most of this damage occurred in Rockford, which, like Decatur, Ind., lies along the St. Mary's River. Glenn said at least 50 people had to be evacuated from Rockford as of Tuesday night.

In addition, the water level of Grand Lake St. Mary's continues to rise, causing flooding in Montezuma, a small town on the lake's southern shore. Other communities downstream of the lake are warily watching the water level, said Pat Richey, with the American Red Cross in Kokomo. Residents in Randolph County, Ind., are particularly concerned, since the possible opening of floodgates on the lake would be certain to cause at least some residential flooding there.

Besides residential damage, agriculture in both states may be taking a big hit. In Howard County, Ind., emergency management director Larry Smith, said there was extensive damage to corn crops. In Indiana, about 12,000 pigs drown in Mercer County, said Rob Glenn, while about 22,000 turkeys were rescued from a similar fate in the town of Rossford in Darke County.


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