Late February brings punishing storms, flooding to Greater Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- Landslides, downed trees, a possible tornado and thousands of people without power.

Then there's the flooding.

Late February punished the Tri-State with all kinds of wicked springtime weather. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado southwest of Felicity in Clermont County, and the Ohio River didn't even crest until late Sunday.

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune called the flooding a "major event" at a news conference earlier in the day. He cautioned drivers about debris on roads as water levels recede, and he urged residents to record any property damage. 

The Red Cross in Hamilton County received six calls for help, Portune said. He said Newtown was hit especially hard; several streets were evacuated and a successful water rescue took place Sunday. Despite major flooding, no one has been killed or seriously injured. 

“We should be very, very thankful … we have weathered this storm, so far, extraordinarily well," Portune said.

A line of severe thunderstorms, which rolled across the region Saturday night and early Sunday, knocked a tree onto a car in Cincinnati's Clifton neighborhood. The three people inside escaped with minor injuries.

In Bellevue, Kentucky, a sinkhole opened up into a home on Foote Street, up the road from the popular Schneider's Sweet Shop:

Thousands of Duke Energy customers were left without power Sunday morning, all around the region.

In Clermont and Brown counties, the National Weather Service determined tornadoes struck two rural communities. People living in the village of Hamersville said they heard that classic "freight train" sound for about two minutes; and then, silence.

PHOTOS: See the damage in Brown County

No injuries were immediately reported, though there was plenty of property damage.

As of noon Sunday, the National Weather Service recorded 7.79 inches of precipitation at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Even with several days left in the month, it's the third-wettest February on record.

Cincinnati's hillsides often start slipping when they're saturated; the storms' heavy rain meant landslides for Mount Adams and Paddock Hills. The mess they created added to an ever-growing list of road closures.

Most of those roads were closed because of widespread flooding in the Ohio River valley. The river was expected to crest above 60 feet in Cincinnati late Sunday before gradually falling below flood stage in the coming days.

Most of Smale Riverfront Park and Mehring Way in downtown Cincinnati were covered in water.

West of the city, the Great Miami River spilled beyond its banks in Cleves, prompting a warning from Police Chief Rick Jones:

In many places, a kayak would get you farther than a four-wheeler: Much of Aurora, Indiana was flooded Sunday morning. Cincinnati's California neighborhood was underwater, too.

And the water cut off major routes from Greater Cincinnati's east side into Downtown.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued an emergency declaration Saturday for 17 counties, including Hamilton, Clermont, Brown and Adams. In Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin did the same for the entire commonwealth Friday night. The move lets the states use their resources to help local communities with the widespread flooding.

Officials in the riverside village of New Richmond, in Clermont County, were working to cut power and natural gas to homes as the water crept higher. Schools there, as well as in southern Dearborn County and Silver Grove, planned to be closed Monday.

Post offices in Ripley, Ohio and California, Kentucky were closed because of flooding. For Ripley, operations have been moved to Georgetown; for California, they'll be out of Alexandria. Mail delivery is being attempted daily as flooding conditions permit.

At least three people died in southwestern Kentucky when Saturday night's storms hit. No deaths were reported in Ohio. At a news conference Sunday, Kasich said the state "may have dodged a big one" and gave "a lot of credit to the local people for being ahead of the game."

 

"A lot of times people look at government officials and bureaucrats and roll their eyes and all that," Kasich said. "This is one of those times when people who are there, responsible for safety, for lives, did one heckuva good job."

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