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OH Residents mop up as response planned

BY PJ HELLER | SOUTHEASTERN OHIO | July 2, 1998

SOUTHEASTERN OHIO (July 2, 1998) -- Residents in central and southeastern Ohio continued to mop up as best they

could as they prepared to head into what could be a stormy Fourth of July

weekend.

"There is still quite a bit of cleanup that is just beginning," reported

Jim Ditzler, director of the response team for the Ohio Conference of the

United Church of Christ and a Disaster Resource Consultant for Church World

Service.

Residents in some southeastern Ohio communities, hit hard by torrential

rains and flooding which began June 24, still found a few roads impassable,

telephone and electrical service erratic and water supplies questionable.

An estimated 2,000 residents remained out of their homes as of Thursday,

according to the state's Emergency Management Agency. Red Cross shelters

housed 167 evacuees on Wednesday night.

The water system in Caldwell, which serves 15,000 customers, was brought

back on line after being flooded but residents served by it and 24 other

water systems were still advised to boil their water.

Religious organizations and ministerial associations in stricken

communities were doing what they could to assist residents. Launching of an

overall interfaith disaster relief effort was hampered by accessibility to

many of the rural enclaves and the wide geographic area involved, Ditzler

said.

Even so, relief supplies were beginning to get into communities which had

been cut off from the rest of the world by the flooding. Five truckloads of

cleaning supplies were delivered Thursday to the Main Avenue United

Methodist Church in Byesville, which was set up as an emergency shelter.

One man who took refuge at the shelter had moved into a mobile home in the

town only five days earlier.

"He lost everything," said American Red Cross worker Shawn Corder. "He

needs a new home."

Other stories had a happier ending. A New Jersey man whose car was swept

off the interstate by fast moving flood waters and who had to be rescued

from the rising waters by police was able to retrieve his car on Tuesday,

get it running and continue his trip home. He had been housed temporarily

at the shelter in Byesville.

Elsewhere, a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Zanesville was distributing

cleaning kits to residents affected by the storms. A food distribution

center was also set up in the town, Ditzler reported.

Cleaning and health kits were also being distributed in Belle Valley and

Uhrichsville.

A warehouse was expected to be set up in Cambridge to serve as a central

distribution point for relief supplies, a spokesman in the state's

emergency operations center said.

In an attempt to coordinate relief efforts from religious organizations,

Ditzler scheduled an interfaith meeting Sunday at the Emmanuel United

Church of Christ in Zanesville.

Meantime, Gov. George Voinovich declared a state of emergency in Pickaway

County, bringing to 25 the number of counties included in his emergency

designation. The federal government, which initially approved four counties

as disaster areas, making them eligible for relief funds, added seven more

counties to the list.

More areas could be added as Federal Emergency Management Agency officials

assess damages.

"If damage assessment figures come in from other counties and the state,

FEMA will review adding more counties and additional federal programs to

the declaration," said Tim Monteen, a federal coordinating officer.

Damage figures were expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Preliminary figures released Thursday for just eight of the stricken

counties was $14 million, according to the EOC. The Red Cross said its

preliminary damage reports showed 150 single-family homes, mobile homes and

apartment units destroyed in southeast and central Ohio. Another 469 units

suffered major damage and 850 others received minor damage.

While waters continued to recede and sunny skies were forecast over the

state on Friday, forecasters said more rain could be on the way.

The National Weather Service said thunderstorms could occur Friday night

and into Saturday, exasperating an already difficult situation.

"I'm going to write a book when this is over," said the Rev Pat ("Pastor

Pat") Reiter of the Main Avenue United Methodist Church in Byesville.

Posted July 2, 1998


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