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OH floodwaters recede

Nearly a week of heavy rain ended Friday in Western Ohio, where some areas received more than 15 inches of rain since July 4.


"We believe that we've reached our hundred-year flood level."

—Helen Norris

Nearly a week of heavy rain ended Friday in Western Ohio, where some areas received more than 15 inches of rain since July 4.

As swollen rivers and lakes shrank back to their banks, residents and relief workers tried to clean up the mess that has turned six counties into state-declared disaster areas.

According to preliminary damage assessments, at least 400 homes were either damaged or destroyed in those counties. That estimate includes 35 homes that were destroyed outright and another 52 that incurred severe damage.

But water in many areas did not begin to recede until Thursday night or Friday morning, making a complete assessment impossible. Most of the damaged homes, however, were known to be located near either the St. Mary's or Great Miami rivers.

The worst of the flooding occurred in Mercer County, a rural area along the Indiana border, more than 50 miles northeast of Dayton. Most of the damage here hit the town of Rockford, along the St. Mary's River.

Damage also extended to Van Wert County, on the north side of the St. Mary's River, to the town of Willshire, population 1,055, where at least 24 homes were damaged and two destroyed. That estimate did not include homes outside Willshire that lie along the river, said Rick McCoy, director of the Van Wert County Emergency Management Agency.

"Because of the sandbagging and the preventive measures, we lucked out," McCoy said. Besides cleaning up homes and yards, more than 40,000 sandbags will have be picked up, now that the river has dropped more than two feet in the last day.

Two lakes, Grand Lake St. Mary's in Mercer County and Indian Lake in Logan County, also caused flood damage.

Flooding on Grand Lake St. Mary's washed out part of the town of Montezuma, as well as Celina, the county seat.

Indian Lake saw the evacuation of at least 100 homes and the complete washout of one road, according to Helen Norris, the emergency management director for Logan County.

As an example of how high the lake rose, Norris pointed out that a covered bridge not far from the lake was specifically constructed to stand well above the hundred-year flood mark. The lake rose to the point where it touched the bottom of the bridge, she said.

"That's just an example," Norris said. "We believe that we've reached our hundred year flood level."

Church World Service and its partner organizations were sending disaster response leaders to the worst-hit areas to help plan a long-term recovery.

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