The state of Ohio declared a state of emergency in Columbiana County.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LISBON -- Sue Lewis stood in the mud outside her wrecked home and pointed down the devastated lane of a small creekside neighborhood.
"There was a house there," Lewis said, indicating a pair of porches and the empty foundation that lay between them on Caldwell Street.
The image was just one snapshot among the hundreds composing a picture of ruin that best described much of Columbiana County on Saturday.
Widespread flooding blasted this hilly, scenic county north of the Ohio River with sudden, savage fury late Friday.
Creeks, swelled by a series of downpours that dumped about seven inches of rain within hours, boiled over their banks and sent dozens of panicked homeowners fleeing into the darkness for higher ground as brown water roared into basements, poured through windows and doors, and clawed houses from their foundations.
County residents are describing the disaster as the worst flooding they've ever seen in the county.
Many are expressing amazement that no one was killed or seriously injured, though several people had to be rescued by boat, including one man who was trapped in his house along Caldwell Street when surging water tore it from its base. He was plucked from the water downstream.
At least three houses in Lisbon were carried off by the high water.
Late Saturday, Gov. Bob Taft declared a state of emergency in Columbiana County. He said the state would help clear storm debris from roads and help deliver 3,000 gallons of drinking water to Lisbon, where flooding broke the main waterline to the village.
Officials also are seeking an emergency declaration from the federal government that will clear the way for more recovery aid in the form of grants and loans.
State and federal agencies could establish disaster assistance centers as early as this week, county Commissioner Sean Logan said.
An early estimate of private property damage alone is set at $2.8 million.
Still being calculated is the loss represented by damaged roads, sewers and other public facilities.
Even as the first steps are being taken toward eventual recovery, there remain situations that must be dealt with immediately, county disaster officials said.
Lisbon's municipal waterline is severed between its water source and treatment plant. The county is working with the state emergency management agency to have potable water trucked in.
Jay Carter, the county's emergency management director, said Salem has been contacted to see if a Salem-owned waterline that runs near Lisbon can be tapped until the Lisbon line is repaired.
As of early Saturday evening, electricity was out for nearly 6,000 households and businesses scattered throughout the county. Power to about 4,000 was expected to be restored by today but the other affected customers could be without electricity until Monday, county emergency officials said.
Road washed away
Sometime late Friday, rushing water funneled into a culvert beneath state Route 45 and built to a force powerful enough to sweep away both lanes of the major north-south artery between Salem and Lisbon.
On Saturday, a car bearing two occupants was on its roof at the bottom of the nearly 60-foot-deep, 120-foot-wide chasm created when the road broke away.
The car's occupants were not seriously injured, said an Ohio State Highway Patrol spokesman.
Barry Minor of the Ohio Department of Transportation said it will be weeks before the road is fixed. Meanwhile, traffic is being detoured.
Motorists frequently confronted "road closed" signs in the county Saturday.
Besides state Route 45, parts of state route 154, near Elkton, and state Route 558 near the hamlet of Franklin Square were barricaded. U.S. 30 was shut near Kensington. Numerous county and township roads were blocked by high water and debris that had spilled from steep hillsides.
About 70 people sought refuge at a shelter set up at David Anderson High School in Lisbon shortly after the flooding.
Nearly 17 remained there late in the day Saturday. A Red Cross spokeswoman said the shelter will stay open as long as it's needed.
Some seeking refuge were from the tiny village of Elkton, where homes were severely damaged and the post office was carried off by floodwaters from nearby Little Beaver Creek, normally a tranquil, picturesque stream popular with canoeists.
"This is the worst I've ever seen," county Sheriff Dave Smith said as he stood near his cruiser, west of where the post office once stood.
XThe Associated Press contributed to this report.