Tuesday, June 17, 2003

No respite for Butler flood crews

Volunteers answered call

By Jeremy W. Steele
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ST. CLAIR TWP. - For someone who had been working nearly nonstop for more than 24 hours, Terry White was still in pretty good spirits Monday as he continued helping residents cope with damaging and dangerous flooding.

The fire chief of this Butler County township got called out at noon Sunday because of massive flooding along Four Mile Creek. He helped to rescue people from homes with water rushing in and then helped to clean up.

"We've been out all night," White said as a fire engine pumped floodwater from yards and shot it over Warwick Road and into the raging creek. "We haven't even been home."

In the background, road crews worked to clear up to 18 inches of sand and mud from the roadway.

The story was the same across western Butler County as firefighters and rescue workers - many of them volunteers - spent Father's Day and beyond helping with flooded basements, washed-out roads and stranded residents.

In St. Clair Township alone, about 25 people had to be rescued by boat from their homes along Four Mile Creek, White said. Residents say the water rose to flood levels with an hour, leaving them little time to save their property or evacuate.

"It destroyed everything," said Tabitha Farnsworth, who slept in her car as water rose into her Warwick Road home. "We've had to rip everything out of the house."

She and her husband, Larry, were working Monday afternoon to clean out the house, which was layered with mud. Water lines were visible three feet up on the wall of a free-standing garage, where they said $20,000 in cars, parts and tools were destroyed. The couple doesn't have flood insurance.

Crews responded quickly to help residents such as the Farnsworths. But some officials say the situation could have been different if the flooding had happened Monday in this still-rural part of Butler County.

"It's unfortunate that we had the flooding, but it's fortunate that it occurred on the weekend because that's when most of the volunteer fire departments' people are available," said Butler County Sheriff's Capt. G. Michael Grimes, who heads the marine unit.

Volunteers staff most of Butler County's rural fire departments. They all came together during the weekend, Grimes said, providing the help the area needed.

Departments from across the county offered their help to those hardest hit. Some, like New Miami's department, were in neighboring St. Clair Township helping when floods started sweeping into their neighborhooods.

"It was everybody helping everybody," said White, who took some of his crew to Ross Township to help with flooded areas Saturday. "They were helping other people before helping themselves. That's all part of volunteering, I guess."


E-mail jsteele@enquirer.com

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