Thursday, July 10, 2003

Fresh storms renew Butler residents' fear of flooding

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ST. CLAIR TWP. - A lot of Butler County residents whose property was damaged in last month's flooding are casting worried looks at the sky.

The rain that raised the levels of the Great Miami River and many creeks in recent days has stirred fears and unpleasant memories of the June 14-15 flood that damaged more than 300 homes in Butler County. Weather forecasts warning about the possibility of severe storms today - and several inches of rain - give people more reason to fret.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Great Miami at Miamitown was at 14.6 feet, about 1.5 feet below flood stage, according to the National Weather Service's Ohio River Forecast Center. By Friday morning, it is expected to crest at 21.4 feet. The river is not expected to pass flood stage in Hamilton, but heavy rains today could affect those levels.

"It scares me," said Sandy Taylor of New Miami. "When (the Great Miami River) comes up, we're in trouble."

She said last month's flood was the first she and her husband, John, have experienced since moving into their house on Olinger Drive 20 years ago.

They were out of town when last month's flood forced most of their neighbors to evacuate. The floodwater covered the Taylors' front yard, but didn't get into the house.

Steve and Carol Wilson are still trying to recover from the severe damage to three homes they own on Warwick Road in St. Clair Township.

Carol Wilson stopped by one of the houses Wednesday to check on the progress of the cleanup from last month's flood damage.

The Wilson family has owned one of those three houses since 1958, the house Steve Wilson grew up in. He and his wife built the other two houses.

Their section of Warwick, which runs close to Four Mile Creek, was hardest hit in last month's flood.

"All three of them had about 2 feet of water in them," she said. "We still have to clean out two of them."

After the June flood, the Wilsons had to move out their renters. The flood left the floors caked with mud and ruined the air-conditioning units.

"I'd hate to say what the costs will be to put this back in shape," said Wilson, who lives down the road from the rental houses.

Four Mile Creek ran high and swiftly Wednesday, the water only 3 to 4 feet from the top of the bank next to Warwick Road. Erosion has cut deeply into the banks and has exposed the roots of many trees along the road.

"They have to do something about that creek," Wilson said. "The bank used to be a lot higher. The creek needs to be dredged and made deeper."

Weather Service meteorologist Jeffrey Sites said there are reports that the Great Miami is a couple of feet out if its banks farther upriver, causing flooding in the Sidney area and Logan County. The River Forecast Center does not have river gauges in that area.

"All the water that's up there is gradually going to work its way down the Great Miami, so the water is going to be high along the whole river," he said.

The prospect of heavy rains today concerns Wayne Grizzle, whose house in St. Clair Township was surrounded by 2 feet of water that flowed into his recently remodeled basement. Last Friday, lighting struck two clumps of trees on his property, knocking one into his garage.

Four Mile and Seven Mile creeks converge near his property. They have eroded a lot of woodland.

"In the nine years that I've lived here, the creek has moved 200 feet this way," he said, standing near the muddy bank of Four Mile at the back of his property. "It'll jump up 2 feet in an hour sometimes and then drop back down."

His next-door neighbors, Robert and Sandy Vollet, also had about 2 feet of water in their yard. Sandy Vollet said that over the past 15 years, erosion has shrunk their property from 41/2 acres to 2 acres. Since last month's flood, any rainfall makes her nervous.

"When it rains, I just continuously look out my window," she said. "The creek rises so fast."

Jeremy Steele contributed. E-mail

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