Flash flooding leads to evacuations; emergency shelter set up at community building
By Megan Exline
Commoner Journal staff writer
McARTHUR – Friday night’s storms caused flash flooding in the area and forced some area residents out of their homes.
The American Red Cross of Southeastern Ohio and the Community Emergency Response Team opened up the Community Building to a total of seven people.
The decision to open the shelter was made between midnight and 1 a.m. after two evacuations occurred — one at McArthur Terrace Apartments on South Market Street and the other on a part of Route 50 West toward Chillicothe, according to officials.
On Saturday, victims recalled the events leading to their rescue.
Jini Hufferd and her family were among those staying at the Community Building overnight. Hufferd was babysitting her grandchildren when water started flooding her daughter’s apartment, which is located on Route 50 near Vinton County High School. Hufferd said that by the time the fire department arrived to evacuate them at 10 p.m., it was up to the rescue team’s hips. Inside, it was about 6 inches deep.
The family’s two dogs were rescued with them, but one escaped and was still missing as of 10 a.m. Saturday. The escapee is a tan deer chihuahua named Peanut.
Another individual said she did not need to be rescued from the flooding, but her and others at the McArthur Terrace Apartments helped protect those who were in danger after flood waters entered some of the apartments.
Cindy Taylor, a resident of the apartment complex, said at first the high waters didn’t seem to be serious. Her neighbor’s children were playing in the water, which was only several inches deep in the parking lot.
She stepped outside to watch and speak with her neighbors.
“It went down a little,” Taylor said. “I went back inside.” She thought the worst had passed.
It hadn’t. Within 15 minutes, Route 93 South just past Clark’s Pump and Shop and down through the apartments was submerged in water, making the road impassable and leaving apartment residents stranded.
“It just changed that quick. … A neighbor lady called me, so I went back out and looked at it and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is horrible,'” Taylor said.
She said she began to worry about some of her less fortunate neighbors and decided to help an elderly resident whose apartment was becoming submerged by flood waters.
“I was kind of worried. I knew I couldn’t get her up by myself. … At one moment, she just said, ‘I’ll just drift away in it,'” Taylor said.
Emergency response teams used a Vinton County school bus to evacuate victims from the affected area.
Taylor said she was impressed with the efforts of the response team, but was more impressed with her neighbors.
“I felt like everybody pitched in pretty good,” Taylor said. “I saw people who don’t normally talk to each other helping each other out.”
Emergency Management Director Jayson Potts said Friday night’s emergency response was a team effort, and thanked all the organizations involved.
“Thanks to the local Red Cross, the School Transportation Director Mike Ogier, the McArthur Fire Department, the McArthur EMS and Hamden Fire for emergency rescues, McArthur Police Department and Sheriff’s Department and the CERT team,” he said.
Eight volunteers — Jason Wilks, Jackie Partlow, Chucky Ewing, Misty Napier, Bill Petty, Cheryl Cox and Glenn Haddix — helped set up the shelter and stayed with the flood victims. McDonald’s in Wellston donated food for the shelter.
“When we have stuff, Kenny Wood is really good about supplying us with stuff. A lot of the businesses in Wellston are good about donating stuff,” said Alice Peoples, a disaster volunteer.
The two rescue areas were not the only places hit hard by flooding.
Potts said that parts of Routes 50, 683, 149 and 93 were closed, a culvert was partially washed out on Goose Creek Road, Mt. Olive Road had debris on it, and numerous other roads also had problems.
According to the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office, the following roads were affected by flooding:
- Route 50 West was closed at 11:30 p.m. Friday and reopened at 10:22 Saturday
- Route 50 East was closed at 12 a.m. Saturday and reopened at 10:22 Saturday
- Route 93 South was closed at 11:30 p.m. Friday and reopened at 4 a.m. Saturday
- Route 160 was closed at 11:30 p.m. Friday and opened to restricted use at 5 a.m. Saturday
- Route 278 was restricted at 12:30 a.m. Saturday
- Route 324 was closed at 11:30 p.m. Friday and reopened at 4 a.m. Saturday
- Route 349 was closed at 4 a.m. Saturday
- Route 356 was closed at 6:33 a.m. Saturday
- Route 677 was restricted at 6:33 a.m. Saturday
- Route 328 was closed Saturday morning
The sheriff’s office reported Saturday afternoon a bridge is out on Union Ridge Road near Maynard Hollow Road, about four miles from County Road 30, but all other roads had been reopened.
Friday night’s storm also knocked out power to more than 4,000 residents in Vinton County. According to AEP’s website, power has since been restored to all affected areas.
Officials are still surveying the extent of the damage caused by the flash flooding.
“I don’t think the damage is enough to declare a disaster. At this point, we’re still doing assessments,” Potts said.
Sharon Horel, a member of the disaster relief team for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Ohio, said their goal for Saturday was to ascertain that the damage being reported is correct. Once that is done, they will determine what assistance they can give on a case-by-case basis.
The American Red Cross of Southeastern Ohio serves Athens, Gallia, Meigs and Vinton counties. Their number is 740-593-5273.
Commoner Journal staff writer Paul McManis contributed to this article.