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Rains swamp Ohio, West Virginia; hundreds forced to flee

June 2, 1997

CLEAR CREEK, W.Va. (AP) _ Drenching rain sent flash floods down creeks and rivers in Ohio and West Virginia, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes. Two people drowned after being swept away by a swollen creek.

As much as 7 inches of rain fell on Ohio, West Virginia and western Virginia on Sunday. Most streams were receding today but more rain was forecast.

Belinda Dunbar and her family fled their Clear Creek home late Sunday as soon as they heard the flood warning. The water was already up to her ankles by the time she got outside.

``I’ve never seen it like it is now. It came so fast,″ said Ms. Dunbar, who has lived near the creek 40 miles south of Charleston for 26 years.

Searchers today found the bodies of Susan Shea, 34, and 15-year-old neighbor James Stover in southern West Virginia’s White Oak Creek, about three miles from where they fell in Sunday night, said Beaver Fire Capt. Sterling Lewis.

The two were walking home from church in Artie, about 30 miles southeast of Charleston, when they were caught by the raging water, said Shea’s aunt, Martha Williams.

``It just sucked them up,″ Williams said. ``The water’s everywhere, all the bridges in the hollow are out, no one can get anywhere.″

Nearly 250 people fled their homes in five West Virginia counties. Near Glen Fork, 20 miles southwest of Clear Creek, five mobile homes were destroyed.

Heavy rain also forced people from their homes across Ohio and about 40 residents were still out of their homes today in Plain City, 15 miles northwest of Columbus. Plain City police Chief Steve Hilbert said today that two highways into town were still blocked by water.

The Ottawa River in northwest Ohio briefly threatened late Sunday to swamp the 45-unit River Grove Apartments near Lima. Troy Dempster and his wife Jennifer packed up their belongings and fled _ but left their fish behind.

``They should be OK, or free _ one or the other,″ Dempster said.

In northern Ohio, 30 people returned to their homes today along the Cuyahoga River 15 miles southeast of Cleveland. In suburban Cuyahoga Heights, schools were closed today because of flooding.

The heavy rain in western Virginia’s Alleghany County set off small mud slides that blocked roads.

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