Thursday, July 19, 2001

Flood damage widespread

Third victim's body found

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Rescue workers search for Monica Kuchmar along Sycamore Creek.
(Jim Matthews photo)
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        After nightmarish storms took two lives in Fairfax and one in Symmes Township early Wednesday, a new round of storms Wednesday night caused more power outages, flooding and road closings.

        The three deaths were the region's most from a natural disaster since the April 9, 1999, tornado that hit northern Hamilton County, killing four.

        Just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, a new line of storms moved into western Hamilton County. Road closings were almost immediate, including Interstate 74 at the Indiana state line, I-75 southbound near Hopple Street, both directions of the Norwood Lateral and East Miami River Road.

        Two of the three victims from Wednesday's early storms, including a Blue Ash teen, died trying to help others affected by flooding.

        A Fairfax man went to help his grown daughter retrieve a computer from their flood-prone Simpson Street basement, only to die with her there.

        In Symmes Township, 16-year-old Monica Kuchmar was swept into Sycamore Creek just after midnight while on her way to help a friend move furniture from a flooded basement. She had jumped out of a stalled SUV into the rushing water.

        The search for Monica went on all day, until members of the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department and deputies from Hamilton and Clermont County recovered her body at 6:30 p.m. in the Little Miami River near Lake Isabella Park.

        “I feel like I'm in a daze,” said Sally Hiudt earlier in the day. She is a distant relative and neighbor of Monica. “It's all unbelievable.”

        Monica was to be a senior this fall at Sycamore High School, where she worked on the school newspaper.

        Hamilton and Butler counties on Wednesday declared states of emergency, the first step in applying for state funds.

        At the height of the storms, more than 25,000 Cinergy customers were without electricity, a number that fell throughout Wednesday.

        Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said in all about 900 customers were without power by 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, including the new outages and those left from the earlier storms.

        The storms caused road closures throughout the region, including Columbia Parkway on the east side of Cincinnati, where a utility pole and downed power lines fell onto the road at 4 a.m.

[photo] Shane Carter cuts a tree that fell on a home owned by his friend Jose Perez on Milburne Drive in Clermont County's Miami Township.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        From 7 p.m. Tuesday to 3 a.m. Wednesday, there were 10,850 lightning strikes across Greater Cincinnati, the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, reported.

        Rainfall overnight for the Tristate averaged 2-4 inches, according to the Weather Service. But in parts of Clermont County, rainfall was as much as 8 inches. The Kings Mills area of Warren County saw 5 inches.

        It was the most rain in a 24-hour period in the area since 1953, the AccuWeather meteorological service reported.

        Damage estimates are still being compiled. In Deerfield Township in southern Warren County alone, fire officials estimated damage to residential and commercial properties at $800,000. Nearly all of it was the result of lightning strikes, wind, flooding and downed trees.

        The power outages were primarily in Clermont County, northern Hamilton County and parts of Butler and Warren counties.

        In Clermont County, 10 roads and several bridges were closed for much of Wednesday.

Trapped in basement
        In Fairfax, grief and devastation mixed with mud and shovels on Simpson Street near Little Duck Creek, where Ronald Davenport, 48, and his 21-year-old daughter, Anna Davenport, were killed when raging waters trapped them in the basement of their home shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday.

[photo] Friends and neighbors of Cathi Schellhous (left, in patterned shirt) help remove mud from her Fairfax driveway Wednesday.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        Fairfax police Lt. Steve Kelly said Ms. Davenport apparently went into the basement to retrieve a computer. When her father called to her and heard no response, he went down to find her.

        It remained unclear Wednesday night whether the two drowned or whether a wall collapsed by rushing water contributed to their deaths. The two were pronounced dead at the scene. Their bodies were found in 7 feet of water, which came up the basement steps.

        When authorities arrived, four feet of water was rushing down the street from the creek, 50 feet away.

        Mr. Davenport's wife, Debbie, and their 11-year-old twins, a boy and girl whose names were not available, escaped uninjured.

        “It's an unfortunate accident,” Lt. Kelly said. “It's a tragedy and it's terrible.”

        Throughout the morning, village workers and residents along Simpson Street quietly shoveled mud and debris from saturated lawns and sidewalks, occasionally glancing toward the home surrounded by yellow police tape.

        Flooding isn't new in that corner of Fairfax. A $36 million project to control flooding along Duck Creek is expected to get started later this year.
       The flood-protection plan includes building a series of flood walls, pump stations and levees along the creek, which stretches 3.8 miles from Kennedy Heights south to the Little Miami River.

        In 1997, flash floods along the river in Fairfax caused $2 million in damage to 28 businesses.

Damage in Montgomery
        Flooding of a creek in the upscale Tanager Hills subdivision in Montgomery tore away large chunks of three homeowners' back yards, causing a sewer line to rip apart and some basements to fill with as much as 5 feet of water.

[photo] Erosion from a creek behind Tanager Hills Drive in Montgomery chewed away at residents' back yards.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The most severe damage occurred in the cul-de-sac at the north end of Tanager Hills Drive. Mud coated the street; and tree branches, bark and other debris lay in the front and back yards of the large, stately homes.

        Duff and Jeannie Lewis lost up to 60 feet of their back yard. The water ate away so much of their yard that on Wednesday their screened-in porch stood perilously at the edge of the drop-off.

        “It was terrifying when this yard was falling off,” Mr. Lewis said. “A chunk would fall in — THOOMP! — and the house would shake.”

        The Lewises' next-door neighbors, Joel and Susan Ivers, also lost a large piece of their back yard. Six of their trees, including one that was more than 100 years old, toppled into the flood waters.

        “We were horrified,” Mrs. Ivers said. “It was a beautiful back yard. That 100-year-old tree was a treasure.”

        Neal Schear, who lives next to the Ivers family, said the creek has flooded before, but never anything close to this. Until now, it's been a picturesque little creek winding through the heavily wooded subdivision.

[photo] A Ford Escort remains stranded Wednesday morning in the 2300 block of East Kemper Road in Sharonville.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        “It's unbelievable,” Mr. Schear said, standing on his cement-and-brick patio covered with mud and debris. “This is Biblical kind of stuff.”

        When their basement began flooding, he, his wife, Kathy, and their three children moved valued objects to the first floor. Written on one salvaged box on the kitchen table were the words, “Baby Book Mementos.”

Warren County damage
        Flooding also forced the emergency evacuation Wednesday morning of nearly a dozen residents of the Shadow Lake Village Mobile Home Park in Warren County.

        The Turtlecreek Township community, next to Little Muddy Creek off Mason-Montgomery Road, was hit hard by flood waters beginning shortly after midnight.

[photo] Cars remained in high water Wednesday in a lot at the General Mills cereal plant in Sharonville.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        No one was injured, though township paramedics had to use a rescue boat to evacuate about a dozen residents at about 3 a.m.

        Phyllis McBride and her family stayed put. Unable to swim, Ms. McBride spent a harrowing night listening to flood waters lap the underside of her trailer, which was without electricity and phone service.

        “It was scary being inside, especially since I can't swim,” she said as her family bailed out their Horseshoe Drive mobile home and their cars Wednesday morning.

        Numerous schools canceled summer sessions Wednesday, including Heritage Hill Elementary in Springdale and Moeller High in Sycamore Township.
       Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said crews will probably still be working to restore power to some isolated areas through this morning.

        Partly cloudy skies, but no rain, are expected today.

Teens were on way to help out a friend
Victims were kind, helpful
Dozens rescued in flood from rising Little Muddy
Flooded businesses forced to close
Floods of recent past carried stunning deadly force
Smallest creeks can be deadliest
Storm notebook
System swooped in from northwest
Be wary of flood water


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