Belpre woman swept up in swift-moving water

BELPRE – Michelle Mackey left her Dugan Road home in Belpre shortly after 5:30 a.m. Tuesday headed for work at Dillard Construction in Marietta.

A few minutes later she found herself having to swim for her life where Oxbow Road and St. Andrews Boulevard converge after nearly four inches of rain pounded Washington County overnight.

Mackey, 18, a 2013 Parkersburg Catholic High School graduate, said she was going to her summer job, made the right hand turn onto the bridge which crosses the Little Hocking River, and “ran into water. It was dark and I couldn’t see much ahead of me.”

Mackey said the rain had stopped in the narrow valley near Oxbow Golf Course but a rain gauge in their yard measured 3.25 inches of rain from the storm.

The swift-moving water caught the Chevrolet Silverado she was driving, lifted it off the pavement and quickly took it over the guardrail protecting motorists from the soybean field along Oxbow Road, which leads to Ohio 339. The truck, owned by Kyle Blinn of Belpre, eventually submerged and was found in the soybean field about 150 yards from the point of entry Tuesday after the water receded.

Mackey, who is entering the nursing program at Rio Grande University this fall, found herself being a passenger in a floating object that wasn’t supposed to float. “When the truck started to float and the water started coming in,” she said, “I rolled down the window and got out.”

Before getting out, however, she made a frantic call to her father, John, describing the situation. “She called, said she was stuck in the water and the truck was floating downstream,” he said. “The phone went dead soon after that.”

The call registered on John’s phone at 5:51 a.m. and he arrived on the scene minutes later. By that time Michelle was safely on the opposite side of the flooding stream near Ross Lane.

“There was a man and woman, whose names I don’t know, who were on the other side where I came out. The guy asked if I could swim and was starting to take his shoes off to come in. They gave me a phone to use and I called dad to tell him I was safe,” Michelle said.

The storm, which lasted from Monday night into Tuesday morning, caused flash flooding, disabled vehicles, sink holes and massive water damage throughout Washington County.

It was the most rain in a single day in Marietta since Sept. 17, 2004, when remnants of Hurricane Ivan dropped 4.87 inches and caused massive flooding.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office responded to two disabled vehicle calls on Oxbow Road throughout the night and found a third washed-away vehicle in the process, said Lt. Randy Stackpole.

The sheriff’s office got a call late Monday night from a man who called from his home to say his vehicle had been swept away on Oxbow Road earlier. A couple yards away was another vehicle that appeared to have been abandoned after being swept slightly off the road, he said.

“Talking to some people in the area, they’ve only seen flash flooding that bad one other time and that was in 1998,” said Stackpole.

The storm ravaged localized areas in Marietta.

The city received 3.7 inches of rain between midnight and 7 a.m., according to precipitation readings taken at Marietta’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. It is the most rain that has fallen in a single day this year, said local weather watcher Charlie Worsham, and the most on a single day in August since 1989.

City streets superintendent Todd Stockel said the high volume of water was too much for some of the city’s storm drains.

“We had to close Second, Third and Hart streets, which we normally don’t have to do. It’s just so much water, the drains can’t take it,” he said.

Despite the closure, at least two cars were disabled in the 100 block of Third Street overnight.

Just after midnight the Marietta Police Department and Marietta Fire Department assisted a vehicle that had started to float.

Still on scene after pushing that vehicle to dry ground, a second vehicle and driver tried to entered the road and became disabled, said fire Capt. Jack Hansis .

“We had both ends controlled with lights and vehicles. All the red and blue flashing lights just didn’t dawn on them so they just came on through,” he said.

No one was injured in either of the incidents, he said.

The quickly rising waters even disabled a police vehicle.

“We had a cruiser get flooded on the 100 block of North Second Street. It had to be towed,” said Marietta police Capt. Jeff Waite.

The city streets department spent Tuesday morning cleaning up the mud and debris left on roads, investigating sink holes and jetting out storm drains.

Several small sink holes will need to be inspected via camera and then dug up and repaired.

The largest, along the double yellow line on the 200 block of Butler Street, is about the size of a person’s fist, officials said.

One drain on Greene Street blocked up and caused flooding in several area basements.

Greg Black owns a rental property on Greene Street that flooded overnight.

“We’re going now to pump out all the water. There’s probably about two feet of water down there,” he said of the building’s basement.

Another Greene Street resident, Lynn Vermaaten, said she awoke to discover water had come up a couple inches in her basement.

“We’ve lived here almost 35 years. This is maybe only the second or third time we’ve ever had water in the basement,” said Vermaaten, who added city crews had been cleaning the street and clearing the drains Tuesday morning.

While coping with damage throughout Marietta, the city also a messy situation on its hands close to home. The roof at Marietta’s City Hall building once again experienced leaking during the heavy rains.

The roof, which is in the process of being replaced by Canton-based Buxton Roofing, first became a problem in July when heavy rains caused major leaks, damaging city property and forcing the Marietta Police Department dispatch to temporarily relocate.

The dispatch office stayed dry, but water dripped elsewhere in the building, said Waite.

“It made a pretty good puddle on the landing going up to where the old (Marietta Municipal) Court was,” said Waite.

Station One of the Marietta Fire Department is also part of City Hall.

Water began leaking into the department’s kitchen on the second floor sometime after midnight, said Chief C.W. Durham.

“We’re not sure where its coming from. They’ve only done part of the roof, so we’re not sure if it’s where they are reroofing or part of the old roof still leaking,” he said.

The department was able to maintain the leaking, which caused damage to several ceiling tiles and some cabinets.