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Floods in Ohio Force Hundreds to Flee; Storms Hammer Oklahoma

July 3, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Rain-swollen rivers spilled over their banks in Ohio on Thursday, forcing hundreds of people out of their homes, while thunderstorms and lightning bolts hammered parts of the nation and sent a river of flaming oil across an Oklahoma City street.

Six deaths were blamed on the storms since Wednesday.

Rescue teams in Shelby, Ohio, used cherry pickers and boats to help stranded residents as the Black Fork River surged through the city and flooded 400 homes. Damage in Shelby was estimated at $9 million.

Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste declared a state of emergency for parts of Morrow, Delaware, Marion and Richland counties, and he sent 60 National Guard troops to provide help and security in Shelby and the town of Bellville, also in Richland County.

″They told me a (clothes) dryer came out of the fire department over there and went through my windows,″ said June Hartland, surveying damage to her silkscreening business in Shelby.

A traffic death and several traffic injuries Thursday in Oklahoma were blamed on the storms, and three people drowned on Lake Livingston in eastern Texas when wind capsized their boat. A fourth person in the boat was hospitalized. On Wednesday, the deaths of two teen-agers in Indiana were blamed on the storm.

More than 500 people were evacuated throughout Ohio because of flooding. In Richland County, where more than 6 inches of rain has fallen so far this week, the storm sent the several rivers out of their banks.

Many roads were reported closed and major flooding was predicted on the Scioto River, and minor flooding was expected on the Cuyahoga.

The severe weather rumbling through Oklahoma knocked out power at a hospital in Lawton, shattered windows in a furniture store in Duncan, blew over a mobile home, blew the roofs off several buildings in Yukon, and knocked down trees. Some roads were closed because of downed power lines or overturned trailer rigs.

The National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Mo., issued a thunderstorm warning for parts of Arkansas and Louisiana as the storms moved east. Large hail, dangerous lightning and damaging winds were predicted.

Lightning blew the top off an oil storage tank in Oklahoma City, sending burning crude oil and natural gas into the street. The fuel flowed into a nearby creek and firefighters fought the blaze there, said Jon Hansen, spokesman for the Oklahoma City fire department.

″It kind of looked like a bomb exploded,″ Hansen said. Metal rained down around the intersection, nearby store windows were shattered and heat from the fire damaged the back wall of a convenience store.

Lightning strikes were blamed for four house fires in Oklahoma City, but no extensive damage was reported.

In Maryland, Baltimore fire officials said a rowhouse collapsed at 6 a.m., killing two occupants. Witnesses said the house was hit by lightning and officials were trying to determine if weather was a factor in the deaths.

In Nevada, lightning sparked a 75-acre fire near homes in southwest Carson City and a 3,600-acre blaze south of the Idaho border, along with scores of smaller fires. Rain washed boulders across Interstate 80 in Northern California, blocking the highway for several hours.

In Carson City, a man who took shelter under a tree was hospitalized in satisfactory condition after being hit by lightning Wednesday. The charge entered Brad Wunsch’s body at his waist and left through his ankles, melting his polyester socks.

In the Ohio flooding, two minor injuries were reported in Shelby, where Richland County sheriff Richard Petty said the Black Fork’s current was swift and hazardous.

″It’s a good thing that nobody’s got out on there with little dinky boats,″ said Petty. ″Even our boat, which is about 19 feet, is having a little trouble.″

In Morrow County, the Whetstone Trailer Park was evacuated when high water caused a butane tank to explode, burning two people, one of them critically, Mount Gilead Police Chief Robert Ruhl said.

Shelby Police Capt. Fred Eichinger said that when the city jail was evacuated, three prisoners being held on minor charges were simply released. He said the police building was ″completely ruined.″

Half-inch hail and winds up to 71 mph hit Enid, Okla., the National Weather Service said. Strong thunderstorms also hit along a front from Minnesota to Wyoming, with 1-inch diameter hail damaging trees in Gully, Minn.

In Indianapolis, where more than 4 inches of rain fell Wednesday, a 14- year-old boy drowned when he was swept away by water in a drainage ditch, and a 15-year-old boy was killed when a car struck a tree. The boy was riding without a seat belt in the back of the car, police said.

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