Heavy Rains Flood Parts of Ohio, Stranding Residents

Heavy rains swamped communities in central and southern Ohio, leading to road closures and rescues of residents by boats and at least one military vehicle, officials said on Friday.

At least three inches of rain fell in the region overnight and early on Friday, flooding roadways and overwhelming waterways when the ground — already saturated from previous rains — could not hold it all, according to Kathleen Fuller, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Around 5:45 a.m. on Friday, a man escaped from his S.U.V. before it washed into an inundated culvert under State Route 79 and became lodged there, said Morgan Overbey, a Transportation Department spokeswoman in Licking County. The collapse of a portion of the route, near the city of Heath, created a chasm up to 17 feet deep of roaring water, she said.

A shiny tire, all that was visible of the vehicle, jutted out of the churning waters.

“We are experiencing a lot of flooding in our area in Licking County, and surrounding communities are impacted,” Ms. Overbey said in a phone interview from the site, where workers posted signs and monitored water levels. She added that the driver, whom she did not identify, had been traveling over State Route 79 when the pavement over the culvert started to buckle. He got out of his vehicle, she said.

By the time officials reached the area, “he was up and walking and was fine,” Ms. Overbey said. “He said it was just a little scary.”

Before noon on Friday, the region had been pelted by up to three inches of rain in 24 hours, according to Jay Carey, a chief spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Flash flooding forced closures of interstates as well as state and county roads, he said, including a portion of Interstate 71, which runs south of downtown Columbus.

Water rescues took place in at least two counties. In Heath, which has a population of more than 10,000, five Licking County boats were pressed into service, plucking residents from homes surrounded by water overnight and early on Friday, Mr. Carey said.

High winds are also taking a toll. About 10,000 utility customers are without power in central and southern parts of the state, Mr. Carey said.

Credit…Licking County Sheriff’s Department

Ms. Fuller, the Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said parts of at least 32 state routes in 16 counties had been affected by the rains, which she described as heavy but not unusual for this time of year. Because they were flash floods, and not sustained, some residents were not isolated for long periods and could find alternate routes.

“We have had a wet winter, but not abnormally wet,” she said.

But repeated rounds of storms have hit from Dayton into Licking County, with up to four inches of rainfall there in the past two days, James Gibson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, told The Columbus Dispatch.

Rescues in the county, which are taking place with the assistance of other agencies, have included passengers from up to a dozen vehicles stranded in water, the Licking County sheriff, Randy Thorp, said.

“In Heath, there is a massive evacuation going on,” Sheriff Thorp said on Friday. A military tactical vehicle and SWAT teams have been evacuating people from apartments and houses, some in locations where water is up to six feet deep.

“One hundred-plus people have been evacuated in that area,” he said. “God knows how we will figure it out with Covid-19.”

A 2-year-old girl was taken to Licking Memorial Hospital after being caught in floodwaters during a water rescue in the city of Newark, which is contiguous with Heath, he said. Her condition was not immediately known.

Sheriff Thorp said he had spoken to the man who escaped his vehicle on State Route 79. The man had climbed down to inspect something in the road, and “he turned around and his vehicle was gone,” he added.

Mr. Carey, the emergency management official, said there had been no deaths reported.

Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned on Thursday that Americans should brace for another flooded spring, with high water ranging from the northern Great Plains to the Gulf Coast, and the most severe conditions in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Moderate flooding is anticipated in Ohio; Cumberland County, Tenn.; and the Missouri River basins, NOAA said.

But the flooding is not expected to be as bad as last year, the forecasters said.

Mr. Carey said that the ordeal had not been as bad or as sustained as the substantial flooding of 2019. There is more rain expected on Friday, but the worst might be over after that.

“It rained so hard, so quickly,” Mr. Carey said. But, he added, “It is clear for days ahead.”

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