For much of Brown County, the massive thunderstorm that dropped as much as four inches of rain in less than two hours Saturday night was dangerous, but not necessarily life threatening.
For some in Georgetown, Ripley and other townships, though, the rain and the flooding that followed put their lives in jeopardy.
Felicity resident Randy Myers, his wife, Robin, and one of their grandchildren and three of his friends, were on their way back from the Adams County Fair on Saturday evening when they encountered heavy flooding on state Route 125 at around 11 p.m. Once the Myers family, in their Ford Fusion, reached the other side of the bridge over White Oak Creek in the eastbound lane, they were at an impasse.
“We stopped and the water was over the headlights in the car and it kept beating on the car,” Randy Myers said. “My wife said, ‘We’re going to die tonight,’ and I said, ‘It does look that way.’”
They weren’t the only ones stuck on SR 125. A female had allegedly abandoned her car when it reportedly was lifted up by the rushing waters. Another vehicle made it to the westbound side over the median and drive up to the top of the hill, likely calling for help, said Randy Myers.
Both Randy and Robin lived out their nightmares while they were stuck in the rising waters, though their car was still running and the gear was in drive. Randy Meyers called his son Randy Jr. to tell him he loved him and to ask him not to try and rescue them, as the water was too high and it was too dangerous in Myers’ opinion.
“It was that bad,” Randy Myers said.
By Randy Myers’ estimation, it was 15-20 minutes before law enforcement and the Georgetown Fire Department arrived on the scene.
“The greatest sight you could see,” he said.
Georgetown Police Department patrolman Shaun Inlow was the first person on the scene, followed closely behind by Georgetown EMS technician Brian Dutlinger and the Georgetown Fire Department, according to Georgetown Police Chief Rob Freeland.
Once the rescue services assessed the situation, fire department personnel backed their truck behind Myers’ car, which had been slipping backwards inch by inch over the past 15-30 minutes. By doing this, it kept the car in place, according to Georgetown Fire and EMS Chief Joe Rockey.
Rockey said the assembled rescue service members then came together to form a human chain and rescue the children and two adults from the car in front of the truck.
“They took the kids one by one and then the two adults got out and held on to the policemen and the family of six was then safe in the fire truck,” Rockey said.
Rockey said it was a little bit more difficult saving the other female, who had reportedly abandoned her vehicle. The second fire truck that arrived on the scene went east of the female’s position in the water, blocking some of the flow of the water in a dam-like fashion.
Then, Dutlinger tethered himself to the truck and other officers and he was able to get hold of her and the other firemen were able to pull the pair of them to safety, Rockey said.
“Without everyone there, it could have gotten bad real quick,” Rockey said. “Everyone pitched in and we became a big team.”
Rockey said a total of eight people were rescued from the flooding by the GFD, including another man rescued on Day-Hill Arnheim Road near the intersection with Baker Hanselman Road.
Just a few hours later, residents of Ripley Road, just north of Ripley, woke up to the realization that their homes were being flooded.
Red Oak Creek was flooding onto the street and, according to Sonja Benjamin, the water levels had risen from her porch steps to inside at ankle level to up to her knees within 15 minutes.
“My husband (Ray) gets out of bed, goes to the front door, and he sees our neighbor and the water is under their house and truck,” Benjamin said. “By the time we get to the front door, it’s coming in the front and back door like you wouldn’t believe. Soon it was up to my knees.”
Benjamin described how the water carried her neighbor’s car from the side of their house to the front, and that the water picked up her car and eventually deposited it in the creek.
Meanwhile, gas and propane tanks were launching down the road like cannons, Benjamin said.
“Thank God it went past and it did not explode,” Benjamin said. “We couldn’t leave and had to sit there and wait until the water went down.”
After the water finally receded, the Benjamins and their neighbors were left with a thick layer of mud, ruining large portions of their house.
Even with the flood damage to her home, Benjamin said she and her husband went out and tried to help her neighbors.
Benjamin said she and her son, David Benjamin, the police chief in Winchester who helped organize the search and rescue efforts, relied on their faith to make it through the tough circumstance.
“It was like, ‘Oh my lord, just be with us. Please make sure everyone’s safe,’” she said. I really wasn’t concerned for myself as much as the children in my area. My son (Anthony) and his family are on a hill. They had to get out of their house and go on a four-wheeler and they sat under trees until the water went down.”
Benjamin was shocked to see the aftermath after the creek water had finally receded by Sunday morning.
“The roads were horrible,” Benjamin said. “I’ve never seen a storm that took the blacktop off the road. My yard, all our yards, were full of black top from where the water was so heavy and strong and it pulled the blacktop off the road.”