WEST LAFAYETTE — The rain came fast and furious in Coshocton County and particularly West Lafayette Tuesday as flash flooding led to road closings, evacuations and massive damage to area residences and Ridgewood Schools property.
West Lafayette Mayor Steve Bordenkircher issued a "state of emergency," asking residents to avoid traveling in the area and "please insure your families are safe."
Bordenkircher said the village is coping with the disaster, noting, "So far, so good. The water is starting to recede. We met with officials from the Emergency Management Agency and village staff and will be meeting again Wednesday afternoon. There’s just a lot of cleanup. We’re praying we don’t get additional rain but the National Weather Service shows there could be a major storm on Thursday."
The Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office was involved in helping evacuate apartments on Plainfield Road as water continued to rise throughout the evening. It was reported that evacuations began just before midnight and continued into Wednesday morning. WBNS-TV in Columbus reported evacuees were taken to First Baptist Church on East Main Street in West Lafayette.
Rain was estimated at anywhere from 4-7 inches during the storm and the flash flood warning was extended to Thursday evening, with more rain expected on both Wednesday and Thursday.
In addition to flood damage at multiple homes in the area, damage was reported at the Ridgewood Middle School as flood water entered the school and covered a recently installed gymnasium floor and including multiple classrooms.
Bordenkircher said repairing damage to the apartment complex would be "long term and they’re still getting water out of the schools. The damage reaches beyond the village, though. There’s significant damage in area and still some water on the roads. If repairs continue as imagined, some roads will be open by tonight. Others by the school will take longer.
"The biggest concern is keeping people and kids out of the flood area. Why put themselves in jeopardy but they do."
The Coshocton County EMA posted on their Facebook page asking residents to avoid the West Lafayette area if at all possible.
"Rob McMasters, director of the Coshocton County EMA, is doing a great job and I would definitely heed Rob’s advice strongly," said Vaughn Steinmetz, assistant chief at Coshocton County EMS. "Don’t drive through high waters, turn around, don’t drown. Listen to your local EMA office. The Coshocton County EMS is also there as another resource with rising water and getting people out as well as any other medical condition that may arise. But I have full faith in our local EMA."
The Coshocton County EMS is taking precaution for tonight’s predicted rain.
"We are placing another crew on tonight and strategically placing them at Station Three, given that is where the flooding is the worst," said Steinmetz. "Unfortunately, we don’t know how much rain is going to fall and where it is going to fall, but we are placing another crew at Station Three as a precaution."
Area residents immediately began helping those in need on Wednesday.
Jay and Sue Davis of the Ridgewood General Store posted: "Our thoughts and prayers from the General Store go out to many of our community members, families and friends today after the flooding that occurred last evening as a result of the heavy rains we experienced, with more perhaps one the way. We have seen pictures from our customers of totally flooded basements, washed out roads and loss of power. The General Store is extending an offer to our community for anyone who needs a clean bathroom, running water, drinking water or just a dry place to get away for awhile. There is no need to feel obligated to make a purchase of any kind at the store. We just want to be here to help and offer what we can."
The National Weather Service reported the flash flood watch remains in effect with periods of heavy rainfall possible through Thursday. The Weather Service noted that the heavy rainfall is combined with an already saturated ground, "providing optimal conditions for flash flooding."
Officials also reminded area residents to never drive through flooded roadways because there is no way to determine if the roadway is damaged, noting "Turn Around, Don’t Drown."
(Beth Dulaney Scott of The Coshocton Beacon also provided information for this story)