County officials agreed Monday that areas in northern Highland County were hit the hardest by heavy rain on Friday, with some residents reporting rainfall in excess of six inches – and swollen creeks and flash flooding kept emergency workers busy throughout the weekend.
The Highland County Grain Bin Rescue Team was called to Rocky Fork Creek in the old Seven Caves area early Sunday afternoon after it was reported a kayaker was stranded there.
Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District’s Branden Jackman, who serves as commander of the team, said a 47-year-old man kayaking the creek with his wife had hit a rock and capsized, then ended up on an outcrop on the opposite side of the creek from Cave Road at the base of an 80- or 100-foot cliff. The man’s wife, who retained control of her kayak, joined the man on the outcrop.
“It took us about two hours from the first guy going over the edge on a rope to having them both out,” Jackman said. “If we’d gone down on the cliffside at Cave Road, we wouldn’t have been able to cross the water safely… We ended up having to go in off 50 and find an alternate route to the other creek bank where we made contact with him.”
Jackman said the team had to haul their equipment through about a quarter mile of woods to make it to the cliff’s edge.
“There’s some big cliffs back in there,” he said.
Jackman said the incident should serve as a warning to people who want to kayak flooded creeks.
“With the amount of rainfall we’ve had recently, use caution and know your skill level before you try creeks when they’re much higher than normal,” he said. “Make sure you have the proper safety equipment with you, but more than anything, know your capabilities.”
Jackman said two other kayakers stayed with the couple until help arrived.
“We don’t know who they were, but thank you to the good Samaritans who stayed with them until we got there,” he said.
The man sustained an injury to his leg, but was otherwise in stable condition, according to Jackman. Only one kayak was retrieved.
Jim Lyle, director of the Highland County Emergency Management Agency, told The Times-Gazette that Greenfield and some areas in Paint Township had some of the highest water levels, and Hillsboro got its fair share as well.
“I haven’t heard what it was like in Brush Creek or Mowrystown, but going towards Greenfield and Paint Township, that area had a lot of high water and stuff like that down around the lake,” Lyle said. “That’s where they got most of the rain.”
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said U.S. Route 62 was closed for some time Friday evening due to heavy flooding, and high waters elsewhere kept deputies busy putting out signs and roadblocks.
U.S. 50 was also closed Friday evening west of Danville Road, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
“Our deputies were running all over where the high water was,” Barrera said. “A big one that I’ve never seen before was 62 near Southern State. I’ve never seen that before.”
Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth said his crews were out nearly all of Friday night and into the morning.
“We had water over areas we hadn’t seen flooded in quite some time,” he said. “We had some severe locations, and we had barricades up – we actually ran out of barricades – but we’re still out checking and it looks like we’ll have to do some cleanup.”
Otworth said the bridge at Bald Knob was completely submerged for some time, and Madison Township lost a new 48-inch pipe that was installed recently, but other than that, repairs seem minimal.
“So far, it looks like we’ve got out of it without too much extreme damage,” he said. “It’s going back and trying to do some repairs we really don’t want to have to be doing, especially during construction season. Overall, I think we’ve come through it very well, considering where it could’ve been.”
Lyle said his office received several calls on Monday from individuals asking for state and federal funding for repairs.
“We’ve got a couple bridges, but they’re just private bridges around Marshall Township that were washed out,” he said. “And there were other areas where we’ve got some damage, but nothing too serious.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.