MARCH 1 – Hardin County rescue personnel saved 11 people from rapidly rising flash flood waters before sunrise today.
They retrieved nine, including six children and three adults at one home and one person at another. One more person was trying to make it out of the flash flood area near the confluence of Indian Creek and Smith Fork Creek on foot, said Hardin County Fire Chief Melvin Martin.
“They were lucky – if this had been like the flood in 2010, they and the structures they were living in would have been swept away,” he said.
At the location with nine people, Martin said the flood waters had risen about a foot into the home before the Swift Water Rescue Team arrived by boat.
Martin said the heavy rains over the last several days, including last night’s torrential downpour, caused the creeks to swiftly rise 2-3 feet.
According to the call log, first responders, including the Cerro Gordo Volunteer Fire Department (Dist. 4) were dispatched to the first request for help at 3:02 a.m.
At 3:14 a.m., Cerro Gordo Fire Chief Chuck Vineyard radioed dispatch to advise he was “at the bridge on Cerro Gordo Road and water is across the roadway, running at a rapid rate.” He was unable to cross.
Other units started making the scene as early as 3:19 a.m., with two rescue boats and the Swift Water Rescue Team to follow shortly thereafter, and they set off in search of those trapped by the flash flood.
“The water at the first house we arrived at was running really pretty swift, and was about 3-4 feet deep; we had to carefully maneuver the boat and tie off at their front door. The water had reached about a foot inside their living quarters,” Martin said of the first house they reached, at 315 Proud Land Lane in Olive Hill.
With the first boat they took three of the children in the house to safety. The second, bigger boat was able to rescue the remaining three children, their parents, a grandparent – and two dogs.
Martin said when they arrived at the first house the occupants told them of a partially blind man who lived alone nearby, and the rescue team set off to find him too.
“When we went to check on him, the water was up to his floor. We were able to maneuver the boat right up to his front door like the first house, and just lean out and knock on it. He came with us,” Martin said.
At this point with 10 people rescued, first responders checking other homes in the area came across a woman walking through knee deep water, striving to reach high ground and safety.
“She was in water only a couple feet deep, about up to her knees, but again the water was running pretty fast, so I’m glad we came across her,” Martin said.
The family that was rescued was brought to a local motel where they remain for the time being, since the flood waters were still at the threshold to their door this morning, according to Martin.
He said the partially blind man was brought back to a fire station and given help contacting the Red Cross. He has since gone back to his home because the flash flood has receded there.
“With weather events like this, people need to be very aware of their surroundings. The place where these people live is ideal for camping, but an area prone to flash flooding – a heavy rain can be a matter of life or death. People need to be aware that this weather can kill,” the chief warns.