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Days of intense, record rains trigger deadly floods in Ohio and Indiana, U.S.


Days of torrential rain triggered flash flooding in parts of Ohio and Indiana on March 20, 2020, resulting in damage to properties and at least eight fatalities. Rescue operations conducted by emergency responders, volunteer fire departments, as well as the victims' relatives and friends, lasted until Sunday, March 22.

According to the National Weather Service, Columbus set a record rainfall for the date with 73.1 mm (2.88 inches), breaking the previous record of 40.6 mm (1.6 inches) set 36 years ago. The South Fork of the Licking River at I-70 near Buckeye Lake reached record levels of 268.8 m (881.89 feet) — the number refers to elevation above sea level, not the depth of the water.

In Indiana, state officials confirmed six deaths after a bridge over Sanes Creek in Franklin County was swept away by high waters.

"We've had so much water in the last two days, some of these small creeks, they flash flood," said officer and Department of Natural Resources spokesman Josh Thomas on Friday.

He added that the responders arrived at the creek following a witness report. Several vehicles were swept off the bridge when the river quickly surged into a torrent.

During the search and rescue operations on the same day, authorities initially retrieved five bodies. Among the victims were a mother and her three children from Laurel– two of the toddlers were recovered Friday. Thomas said the eldest child was retrieved Saturday, March 21.

Two other victims were also identified as Laurel residents. Thomas clarified that all of the bodies were found along the creek, and not in their cars.

Franklin County coroner Brian Baxter said autopsies were pending on all six, but the victims were presumed to have drowned.

In Ohio, intense rain sparked flooding as well, particularly in areas around Columbus.

The NWS Wilmington noted that Columbus set a record rainfall for the date March 20– the state capital recorded 73.1 mm (2.88 inches), smashing the previous record of 40.6 mm (1.6 inches) set in 1984. The South Fork of Licking River near Buckeye Lake has reached record levels of 268.8 m (881.89 feet).

The state's department of transport reported that almost 30 roads were shut in the central areas due to inundations and landslides. 

Two motorists in the counties of Harrison and Tuscarawas lost their lives after driving into flooded roadways. Emergency responders were joined by volunteer fire departments and the victims' relatives in search operations.

The first victim was found inside her vehicle on Saturday, which had been washed off Route 800 north of Stillwater. The second victim was discovered inside his truck on Sunday, March 22, submerged partially in floodwater near Skull Fork Road.

Authorities said the water level where the truck was submerged into was around 3.3 m (11 feet) deep.

In Franklin Township, around 40 people had to flee their homes due to hazardous flooding, while others had to be rescued from inundated areas, particularly south of Columbus.

Evacuations and rescues were also conducted in Health and Newark in Licking County. Hundreds of Ohio National Guardsmen were deployed to distribute relief to the affected areas.

Featured image credit: Franklin Township

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