Monday, March 3, 1997
Adams County cleaning,
waiting, watching

Weekend rains stun these flood veterans

BY BEN L. KAUFMAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE CREEK, Ohio - A weekend rain of biblical proportions stunned Adams County residents.

Many grieved for Jason Hall, a teen-ager drowned in the flood. ''He was a firecracker,'' said West Union High School classmate Stephanie Stephenson. ''He was pretty cool.''

She stood with a dozen others by Brush Creek at Ohio 125 and 348 and watched the roiling, brown water crash against trees and the new bridge and roar by.

Later, watchers cheered as three deer struggled ashore after being swept into the creek; a fourth deer was drawn under the bridge and not seen again.

Still other residents picked through flood-damaged homes in a dozen tiny communities, going through the motions with no hope of restoring any immediate order.

Kathleen Seeley stood by the Brush Creek and wept silently with a double sense of loss.

She drove to West Union on Saturday to be with her husband, Harold, as he died in a local hospital. She learned from neighbors she might not have a house when receding waters allowed her to return home.

Mrs. Seeley wiped a tear and turned to her car. Flood or no flood, she had newspapers to deliver and she'd missed a few customers Saturday because of the flood.

''It was one thunderstorm after another,'' said red-eyed Fred Starcher, standing on rain-soaked carpet in the Adams County Emergency Management Agency.

Ten inches deluged a county familiar with flash floods tearing down washes and hollows, but this was ''a freak ... This is the highest that anybody can remember.''

An exception to the malaise was Carol Knauff, owner of Knauff's Grocery and Restaurant here.

A sparkle shone through her exhaustion as she drew strength from dozens of relatives, friends, customers and strangers who crowded into her roadside establishment to push, flush and wipe away the Blue Creek.

''There's a lot of people who have it a lot worse,'' she said, leaning on her broom as others helped clean floors and shelves and restock cleaned merchandise.

Up Blue Creek Road, rescuers called off their search for neighbors feared trapped in two mobile homes, one piled atop the other in Wamsley. Apparently, they were safe elsewhere.

Throughout the West Union area, chunks of roads fell into creeks as rain and rushing water eroded stream banks.

At dusk Sunday, no one knew how bad it would be.