Monday, June 23, 2003

Flooding in Butler unlike 2001


Rural areas hit this time

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ST. CLAIR TWP. - One thing is obvious when comparing the parts of Butler County flooded this June with the areas hardest hit by the devastating flood in July of 2001: History didn't repeat itself.

Some Butler communities that escaped flooding in July 2001 found themselves knee-deep in floodwater last weekend, while some communities that suffered in the flooding two years ago had dry basements last Monday.

The biggest reasons for the difference are the nature and the location of the storms.

The heaviest rainfall in the storm on July 17-18, 2001, occurred in the central and southeastern portions of Butler as well as southwestern Warren County, northeastern Hamilton County and northwestern Clermont County. It resulted in three deaths - all in Hamilton County - and more than $10 million in area-wide damages.

"We had six inches of rain in six hours," said Julie Reed, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. "It was a lot of rain in a very short period of time."

But last weekend's flooding in Greater Cincinnati was concentrated in Butler County.

The heaviest rain fell in north-central Butler, a mostly rural and semi-rural area, and missed the more densely developed southeastern part of the county that includes West Chester and Liberty townships.

"We had heavy amounts of rain in very small geographic regions," said William Turner, director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency. "The rain clouds didn't move. They just stayed in one spot and dumped a tremendous amount of water."

Last weekend's flood did much less damage to roads, bridges and culverts than the July 2001 flood. Road damages from last weekend are estimated at $20,000, while damages in the 2001 flood totaled $409,000, said Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens.

"In 2001, the rain fell in more vulnerable areas," he said. "Most of the damage total was from Canal Road in Fairfield Township, which fell into a creek."

Much of the rain last weekend fell in the basins of Four Mile and Seven Mile creeks in the northern half of the county and Pleasant Run Creek in Fairfield

Development received some of the blame for the 2001 flooding in Butler County - especially in the fast-growing southeastern section. Some said the proliferation of subdivisions and strip malls had created too much runoff water during severe storms.

But development played no role in the flooding last weekend in the counties' north-central communities, such as St. Clair Township, Somerville, Collinsville and New Miami. That area is largely rural, with little or no recent development.

Development in northern Hamilton County contributed to at least some of Fairfield's flooding problems, city officials said.

"That's had an impact on the lowlands and the creeks up here," said Mark Parker, Fairfield's development manager. "We get a lot of water runoff from Hamilton County. Their stormwater regulations aren't as strict as ours."

Several years ago, a proposal to widen Pleasant Run Creek in Fairfield and construct levees died because of resident opposition. City Engineer Jim Turner said if that project had been undertaken, last weekend's rain wouldn't have caused as much flooding.

"It's very likely the damage would not have been as severe," he said. "It would have helped."

Property tax deduction

Butler County residents who sustained flood damage last weekend might qualify for a decrease in next year's property taxes. Ohio permits reductions in the amount of taxes on properties that have been damaged. To obtain application forms for property valuation decreases, visit Butler County Auditor Kay Rogers' Web site (http://www.butlercountyohio.org/auditor/) or call 887-3154.

---E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




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