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Flood damage grows in southeast

BY PJ HELLER | SOUTHEAST U.S. | February 21, 2000

(Feb. 21, 2000) -- Even before the Ohio River crested, death and

devastation increased as floodwaters continued to inundate Ohio,

Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Two more people died in Ohio from flood-related mishaps, and tributaries

of the Ohio River remained swollen.

In West Virginia, the state of emergency declaration was extended to 21

counties, and homes and businesses across the state were flooded.

Weekend flooding was also caused by heavy rains in Kentucky -- in some

areas more than six inches soaked the area-were blamed for three deaths.

Gov. Paul Patton declared five northern Kentucky countries as state

disaster areas.

In West Virginia, Gov. Cecil Underwood declared a state of emergency in

10 counties due to heavy rain and flash floods. The severe weather was

blamed for several deaths.

Heavy rains Friday night caused severe flooding in and around Charleston

when a winter storm dropped nearly 2-1/2 inches of rain in a 24-hour

period, the National Weather Service reported.

The severe drought in the mid-Atlantic region may have worsened the

severity of the flooding, since the cracked, parched ground could not

absorb runoff, reported forecasters.

Severe flooding unfortunately is not unusual for the area, particularly

for Kentucky. Recovery from a devastating 1997 flood was officially

completed just one month ago, recalled John Kays of Kentucky Interfaith

Disaster Response.

That flood three years ago left five people dead and destroyed hundreds

of homes and businesses in the town of 2,500.

This past weekend, though, as the Licking River was again pushed over

its banks by heavy rains, the town was prepared.

"We never expected to do it again this soon," said Craig Peoples,

disaster and emergency services director. "We know what we didn't know

to do three years ago.

"You never get used to it, you just get better at it," he said.

About 100 homes were evacuated Friday night and Saturday as the river,

an Ohio River tributary, began to rise. By Sunday, residents began

returning to their homes as the water began to recede after cresting

eight feet above flood stage.

There were no mandatory evacuation orders given in the town, which is

about 35 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

In Cincinnati, meantime, the Ohio River was expected to crest on Tuesday

a foot or more above flood stage.

A shelter opened Friday night by the American Red Cross in Falmouth was

closed Saturday afternoon. Only one person used the shelter, located at a

middle school. National Guard troops and residents filled sandbags to

protect the police station and water plant, but those structures were

never threatened.

Flooding did not reach the business district of the town.

"Things are better now. The water is going down," added Kays, a disaster

resource consultant with Church World Service.

Posted Feb. 21, 2000

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