Flooding hammers Belmont County

Rapidly rising water rampages throughout area

A resident of the Stewartsville area walks down his driveway while working with a towing company to remove vehicles damaged in flash flooding on Sunday from his property.

NEFFS — A massive storm Sunday led to flash flooding in some areas of Belmont County, but all local residents are accounted for.

Dave Ivan, director of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, said that as of Monday afternoon, authorities had received no missing persons reports in Belmont County related to the flooding. Earky, unconfirmed reports indicated a woman in a vehicle may have been swept away by flood water Sunday night. A search for the suspected missing person was suspended at about 1 p.m. Monday, according to Neffs Fire Chief Mike Knowlton.

“We did find a car in the creek. The owner was located and it was confirmed that the vehicle was unoccupied,” Ivan said Monday afternoon.

Ivan said the car was swept away when flooding struck Neffs. All roads in the area had been reopened by Monday afternoon, although a few were restricted to one-lane while cleanup crews continued their work, he said.

Willow Grove Road is reduced to one lane as a result of flood damage.

Tree branches and other material collect at a bridge over McMahon Creek on Ohio 149 in Smith Township on Monday.

“Several agencies are working on cleaning up the aftermath of the flood,” Ivan said.

Creeks and streams had receded in the Neffs area on Monday, he added.

But while they remained within their banks, those streams were still running fast and high late Monday.

Another small community hit with flooding on Sunday was Provident, located just north of St. Clairsville along Ohio 9. The Cumberland Trail Fire District had portions of Ohio 9 blocked off due to the severity of the road conditions around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Residents of the Provident and St. Clairsville areas were forced to find alternate routes of passage due to flood water on the roads.

Water covers Chad Clark’s lawn in Glencoe during flash flooding Sunday.

Becky Horne of the Belmont County EMA said Richland Township was hit particularly hard by flash flooding. As of late morning Monday, she had received reports that heavy flooding had occurred on Bull Run, Cumberland Run, Jug Run and other nearby streams. She said some people reported private bridges that span those streams had washed away.

Horne said little other property damage was reported to the EMA. She said one resident reported damage to a garage, a deck and a swimming pool as well as a tree down in a creek, while another reported damage to a storage shed.

Knowlton said that according to the National Weather Service, 2.3 inches of rain fell across parts of Belmont County in a short period of time on Sunday.

“It came up instantly,” Knowlton said of the water in nearby streams. “It was a true flash flood when it came.”

He added, however, that this is not the first time such flooding has occurred in and around Neffs.

“We’re used to this,” he said. “It seems like it happens every so many years.”

Knowlton said the fire department had crews surveying damage all around the community. He said most residents they spoke to reported flood damage to their basements and said everything in those basements was ruined. He said no residents the fire department interviewed reported damage to the main living areas of their homes.

“There’s so much mud with it, cleanup’s going to be a while,” Knowlton noted.

Linda Mehl, director of nursing for the Belmont County Health Department, said she had received calls Monday from residents seeking tetanus vaccines to protect them as they clean up from the flooding. As a result, she said she is attempting to contact state health officials to see if the local health department can obtain any free tetanus vaccine to distribute to residents in need.

State and county road crews were busy dealing with the damage and the mess on Monday.

“We’re out looking for damage today, but there’s still damage out there that we haven’t discovered yet. We’re still trying to assess the problem,” Belmont County Engineer Terry Lively said. “There were several areas that were hit — Neffs, Stewartsville, Glencoe — but we also had damage out as far west as Barnesville.”

“The storm came through early last evening, 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and it’s pretty widespread,” Lively said. “Probably the biggest thing we’ve got is down on Willow Grove Road just north of Neffs. We lost a section of retaining wall.”

Lively added that the wall initially was damaged the third week of June, during another storm.

“It got further damaged (Sunday) evening,” Lively said.

He also pointed out asphalt and culvert damage in the Neffs area.

“There was a lot of private property damage,” he said. “People got flooded. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but it’s widespread and we don’t have a good handle on all of the damage. We’re doing cleanup as we speak. We’ve got our crews working overtime to try to clean up the damage that’s out there and make the roads passable again.”

Lively added that several of his workers are on vacation.

“We’re a little short-handed, but we’re getting things called in to us by 911 and by residents. We haven’t had a chance to go check on everything that we’ve heard about, but we’re getting there. I think in a couple of days we’ll get an eye on everything,” he said. “It just needs to stop raining. … It seems like every week or every other week we’re being hit by these storms.”

Less damage occurred in Monroe County.

“We’ve had some areas that were flooded. We’re not certain how widespread it was,” Brian Caress, assistant in the Monroe County Engineer’s Office, said. “I think it was somewhat isolated. We’re getting reports in right now. We’ve had crews out all day canvassing the county.”

He said crews have been active in several communities.

“Bethel Township I know was hit pretty hard. That’s where the crews are working right now,” he said. “Bethel, Washington and Perry Township, that corridor.”

While Knowlton said area residents are accustomed to occasional flash flooding, he also issued an important reminder: “Don’t drive into the water,” he advised. “Wherever you’re going, it’s not worth it.”

Staff Writers Jennifer Compston-Strough, Robert A. DeFrank and Linda Comins contributed to this report.