Storms cause floods, slides
Tornadoes strike central Indiana

Friday, June 12, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer
and The Associated Press

A Covington Fire Department truck fords Bullock Pen Road where Banlick Creek overflowed.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |

A fast, heavy rain left much of the Tristate wet and muddy Thursday morning, while two tornadoes carved a path of destruction across north-central and west-central Indiana Thursday evening, causing widespread damage to homes and business.

The same storm system that spawned the Indiana tornadoes moved into Greater Cincinnati late Thursday evening.

The heavy morning rain sent local residents to flooded basements and fire crews to water-logged roadways, as landslides, flash floods and sporadic power outages plagued the area much of the day. As much as 5 inches of rain saturated Boone and Kenton counties, prompting officials in Kenton County, Covington and Fort Wright to declare states of emergency. Up to 3 inches of rain fell in southeastern Indiana and western Hamilton County, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's beginning to look like this will equal a 10-year storm," said Dennis Madden, a spokesman for the Hamilton County Metropolitan Sewer District, which had crews out all day Thursday dealing with more than 150 complaints.

"There was so much rain, so fast, that things could not drain fast enough."

In Indiana, the evening tornado touched down on Indianapolis' east side and blew out the back wall of the Rainbow House Academy, leaving cribs and strollers exposed among the rubble. The roof on the back half of the academy collapsed, but a jungle gym stood undamaged behind the center.
Highwater sign warns motorists along Roundbottom Road in Newtown.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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No one was inside when the tornado struck.

"No sooner did it hit, it was gone," Aaron Yates told WRTV in Indianapolis.

A second tornado touched down first in Montgomery County about an hour later and hit Clinton, Tipton and Howard counties before dissipating by 8 p.m.

Some of the worst damage was reported in eastern Marion County and adjoining Hancock County, where two semis and a United Parcel Service truck were overturned along I-70.

Rick Batza, a spokesman for Marion County, said rescue workers were doing a house-by-house and business-by-business search Thursday night near where the day care was destroyed to check on residents.

Rain Info
Three people were reported injured.

For most Tristate residents, Thursday morning's deluge was an annoyance. But for others, it was devastating.

Jaime and Tony Procaccino were routed from their Grace Avenue house in Fort Mitchell Thursday morning. They rushed out of the brick one-story with only their 2-month-old son and their dog as muddy water flooded their back yard. The concrete foundation later caved in on one side under the water's weight, letting water rush into the basement.

"We won't be back," said Mrs. Procaccino as she stood in the pouring rain, her sweatshirt and blue jeans soaked.

The storm sent water cascading down the slopes surrounding Vicky Mathews' home in the 800 block of Sutton Road, Anderson Township -- at one point, surrounding the house in a shallow pool of brown water. The water surged into her basement, swamping her furnace and appliances and collecting about 5 feet deep in a hollow next to her property.

The problem, she said, is a collapsed concrete drainage culvert in the hollow, which she said she can't convince Hamilton County or township officials to fix. The culvert, in working order until about two years ago, drains water from her land and uphill.

"It's gut-wrenching. You sit here and watch it destroy your property," Ms. Mathews said as workers from the Hamilton County engineer's office pumped water from the flooded section onto Sutton Road. "I'm like a sitting duck. This is the third time since last October."
CG&E worker Jim Dugan cuts tangled wires loose from a pole on Wayside Avenue in Mount Washington
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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The Northern Kentucky states of emergency were prompted by the perennial flooding of Banklick Creek, which again sent water throughout the Pioneer Park area. Several homes around Old Ky. 17 were evacuated, but residents were allowed to return about two hours later after water began receding quickly. Some returned to muddy garages and ruined gardens, but officials said damage was relatively minor.

Police officers planned to stay in the area overnight, because of a prediction that more rain could start falling around midnight. The ground was so saturated it could flood again -- and faster, said Chris Warneford, the county's public works director. At one point Thursday, he watched Banklick Creek rise 4 inches in 10 minutes.

The torrential rainfall also contributed to yet another mudslide along Columbia Parkway, said Joe Barkey, a Cincinnati public works supervisor. For the second time in as many months, crews were called to the eastern artery to clear away mud and debris.

The slide posed no threat to the expensive homes, condominiums and apartments above, Mr. Barkey said. And slides are not unusual along Columbia Parkway. The site of Thursday's mudslide was the same as one a few years back, he said.

At the peak of Thursday morning's storms, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Muscatatuck River in Jefferson County of Southern Indiana, which received up to 2 inches of rain. An additional inch of rain was predicted and the river was expected to crest near 22 feet Thursday night, 2 feet over flood stage.

The rain pushed this month's total rainfall over the June average less than halfway through the month. It marks the fifth month this year -- out of six months -- that the Tristate has had more rain than usual.

Officials expected minor flooding in many locations and suggested equipment or livestock should be moved out of the floodplain. The Whitewater River in southeastern Indiana crested at 15 feet Thursday afternoon, 5 feet below flood level.

Despite the rapid rainfall and flood warnings for sections of Indiana, major rivers through Ohio and Kentucky were not expected to reach flood levels.

The Ohio, Great Miami, Little Miami and Licking rivers were expected to stay well below flood stage, although officials postponed the Little Miami River cleanup, scheduled for today to June 19 because of high water.

Along Mill Creek, where heavy rain in April caused millions of dollars in damage, Thursday's downpours were merely a nuisance. "We're doing a little pumping at businesses where loading docks fill up with water," said Evendale Fire Chief John Vail. "There's been no damage to speak of. We're just taking preventive measures."

"We're basically notifying businesses to advise them of flash-flood warnings so they can take evasive action -- relocate stock if necessary and make sure their people can get out at a moment's notice," Mr. Vail said.

At Dunham Recreation Center in Price Hill, 50 people training to be summer day-camp leaders were stuck -- with several feet of water between the parking lot and the way out. So they shared lunches and tried to keep in good spirits.

"The car that's submerged tried to plow himself through it," said Diane Glos, the center's service area coordinator. "He didn't get very far."

At Colerain Bowl, it was a strike of a different kind.

Lightning hit the west-side landmark between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Thursday, igniting a portion of the roof. Black smoke and flames caught the attention of early-morning commuters.

"There was electrical damage within the building. It disrupted the computer systems, but we were able to get part of the building up and going on time," said owner Frank Ruggerie.

Although lightning has struck close to the building, this is the first time the building has been hit, Mr. Ruggerie said. A damage estimate was unavailable.

In Dearborn County, Ind., U.S. 50 at Oberting Road, in Greendale, was closed mid-morning to mid-afternoon Thursday, according to a county dispatcher.

Devils Backbone, Bender, Delhi and Rapid Run roads in Delhi Township were closed briefly after being flooded, and high water closed parts of Loveland-Madeira, Spooky Hollow and Graves roads in Indian Hill.

Re Tanya Bricking, Marie McCain, Christine Wolff, David Eck, Phillip Pina, Kym Liebler, Julie Irwin and Janet Wetzel contributed to this report.

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