Floods kill 3 in Ohio, and water keeps rising

Wet roads froze, causing numerous traffic accidents.

COLUMBUS (AP) — Although the sky cleared over Ohio on Thursday, rivers across the state were flooding and some homes were evacuated.

Authorities say a man who drove his pickup truck into floodwaters in southeast Ohio was swept away and later drowned.

The death of 53-year-old David Cottrill is at least the third in Ohio since heavy rains this week coupled with melting snow since have flooded much of the state.

Authorities said Cottrill’s vehicle was swept away near Vinton late Wednesday after he drove into deep water. He managed to extricate himself from the truck, but drowned early Thursday.

One woman died Wednesday near the southwest Ohio city of Wilmington after she was swept away by floodwaters and clung to a tree for hours. Another woman apparently drowned in Hamilton County’s Whitewater Township when she went to check on her home’s sump pump.

Authorities warned that many rivers would crest well above flood stages, causing further worries for residents dealing with swamped homes. Several days of rain that followed melting of up to 20 inches of snow in some parts of the state caused the flooding.

The Scioto River crept closer to flood levels in southern Ohio, where residents of the small, flood-prone town of Yellowbud were leaving their homes.

“The river is still coming up. It’s still rising, hasn’t crested yet,” Ross County Emergency Management Director David Bethel said.

The storms were part of a system that dumped as much of a foot of rain on the Midwest Wednesday and caused more than a dozen deaths.

When the wet roads froze early Thursday, numerous traffic accidents were reported in the Dayton area. Near Toledo, a sport-utility vehicle hit a patch of ice and collided with a county-owned bus, injuring nine children and two adults, authorities said.

It was not clear how badly some people were hurt, said Linda Good, executive director of Seneca County Area Transportation.

In southwest Ohio, where most areas received more than 4 inches of rain, about 100 homes were damaged by flooding in Butler County, where waters were receding Thursday as authorities assessed the total damage, the county’s Emergency Management Director William Turner said.

About 50 families left their homes Wednesday, but no one spent the night in emergency shelters, Turner said.

“We had a lot of homes surrounded by water where people had to leave because of a safety issue,” Turner said. “But in a lot of those cases the water never actually did get into the living quarters of those homes.”

About 4 miles of one side of Interstate 70, a major east-west highway, closed for several hours Thursday because of water in central Ohio’s Licking County. Morning commuters trying to reach downtown Columbus from the south were detoured off heavily traveled U.S. 23 because its northbound lanes were flooded.

The woman whose vehicle was swept off the road held on to a tree for hours before she was rescued by firefighters, who had trouble helping her because of rushing creek waters, said Maj. Brett Prickett of the Clinton County sheriff’s office. Cindy George, 54, died a short time later at a hospital, and Prickett said the cause of death is believed to be hyperthermia.

She was swept away when she left her vehicle that began to sink when she drove into a flooded area near Maple Grove Campgrounds, where she lived.

More showers and snow were predicted for today and Saturday in Ohio, but not as much as seen in previous days.

The Scioto River near Circleville in central Ohio is expected to remain over the 14-foot flood stage through Sunday, and Pickaway County authorities have asked the Red Cross to prepare shelters for possible flood victims.

Down river at Piketon, the Scioto was forecast to rise to about 26 feet by Friday morning, nearly 8 feet above flood stage, the weather service said Thursday.

In Findlay in northwest Ohio, authorities closed off streets Wednesday after the Blanchard River had once again gone over the 11-foot flood level — the 10th time it has done so in the last 15 months. The National Weather Service predicted the river would crest Thursday afternoon at 12.3 feet.

The Ohio River at Cincinnati was expected to rise slightly above flood stage by Friday.