Tuesday, March 4, 1997
'Didn't have much
to begin with'

In rural hollows,
waters doubly cruel

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE CREEK, Ohio - Life can be hard on the sunniest days if you are one of the several thousand people living in the hollows of the Appalachian foothills of eastern Adams County.

But when a wall of muddy water rushes down a creek bed and turns your home into so much twisted metal, it can seem downright cruel.

''We didn't have much to begin with; now we don't have a thing we can call our own,'' said Hazel Godwin, whose trailer home was smashed Sunday by the rapidly rising waters of the Blue Creek.

By Monday morning, the waters had receded and the Godwins went to pick around the ruins.

All they found that could be salvaged was a coffee mug, two framed pictures, a crystal dish and a clock Roy Godwin had given his wife for Christmas.

Monday morning, the Godwins and their two children - 4-year-old Zachary and 2-year-old Cora - were warm and dry inside the Blue Creek Homeless Shelter, a pre-fab building put up by several local churches a year ago.

Usually, it houses people who have been evicted from their homes or who have come to southern Ohio looking for work. But this weekend, it was turned into a haven for a different kind of homeless person - dozens of people from Blue Creek and nearby Wamsley whose homes were destroyed by the flood.

''Back in this hollow, there are some ornery folks; people who will feud and fuss with each other over anything,'' said Keith Grow of West Union, a volunteer at the homeless shelter. ''But, since this happened, people who would never talk to each other are willing to do anything for their neighbors.''

Monday in Adams County, as the water receded and people began to assess the damage, there was much to do.

On Ohio 125, about a mile west of Blue Creek, two Ohio National Guard helicopters waited on the highway for reports of more people trapped in the labyrinth of hollows and creek beds of rural Adams County.

Other Guardsmen operated earth-moving equipment to clear roads and deal with leaking propane tanks that floated down creeks.

Throughout the weekend, the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department's rescue unit responded to sightings of stranded Adams County residents and flood victims.

At one point, his Hovercraft crew fruitlessly searched raging Brush Creek along Ohio 348 near Cedar Mills because someone reported ''an arm in the water,'' Loveland-Symmes Chief Jim Hunter said.

For Adams County Sheriff Ray Pendell, a former Norwood police officer who took office in January, the weekend was ''a baptism in fire.''

''We're understaffed to begin with, with 12 deputies in a county of 25,000,'' Mr. Pendell said. ''They've been working around the clock. And we've had a lot of help from the outside.''

Brian Boldman showed up in West Union on Monday afternoon with his friend Johnny Taylor after both escaped the flood waters in Wamsley.

''I was waist-deep in water trying to get some neighbors out of their house and I turned around and saw my trailer float away,'' Mr. Boldman said.

He went to West Union, the county seat, looking for help for himself, his wife and his two small children, who had gotten out of the trailer safely.

Mr. Taylor and Mr. Boldman happened to be standing across the street from the Adams County Courthouse when U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, whose district includes Adams County, walked by with state Sen. Doug White.

After telling the congressman of the Boldman family's plight, Mr. Portman led them across the street to his four-wheel-drive vehicle and gave Mr. Goldman two bags of children's clothes that had belonged to his young children.

''I hope this helps,'' Mr. Portman said. ''I hope you all come out of this OK.''

FLOOD STORIES
FLOOD PHOTOS