Thursday, July 19, 2001

Floods of recent past carried stunning deadly force

Remember Falmouth? Losses can be huge

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Wednesday's flash flood deaths reminded Tristate residents of the power of rushing water.

        Flash floods happen when more rain falls than local storm sewers, gullies and creeks can contain. They rise in minutes and fall almost as quickly.

        Typically, losses are measured in dollars, not lives. The flooding of March 1997 was a stunning exception.

        On the Ohio and Licking rivers, the water rose slowly, giving most people time to flee. Still, at least eight deaths were blamed on rural runoff and creeks and rivers that left their banks as snow melted and rains poured down saturated hillsides.

        Falmouth, Ky., was the hardest-hit single community, with five deaths and property losses estimated at more than $40 million.

        In Ohio's Adams County, while property losses exceeded $8 million, human losses rivaled those in Falmouth.

        Drownings in 1997 in Adams County reinforced the danger of driving through rising waters.

        A teen-ager was recovered with his swamped vehicle near the confluence of Blue and Churn creeks.

        A Felicity woman drowned after she and her husband abandoned their car on a bridge in Lawshe to cling to a tree; she was washed away, he survived.

        Also in March 1997, in Ohio's Brown County, one man was swept away when Eagle Creek rose suddenly.

        Two years later, flash floods claimed four victims.

        In Indiana, heavy rains pushed the East Fork of the Whitewater River across Clifton Road in Union County. The flood swept a woman and her daughter away.

        At about the same time, about 30 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio, searchers found the body of another woman whose car was washed from the road by a flooded creek in Fairfield County. Her drowned daughter was strapped into the water-filled car.


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