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The Daily



07-12-03: Taft pushing to get federal aid for flood victims

The Daily Standard

    Gov. Bob Taft has asked President George W. Bush to declare a six-county portion of West Central Ohio a federal disaster area, a move that would pave the way for additional assistance to local residents, businesses and farms that saw damage from the recent flood.
    "After touring damaged communities in Mercer County yesterday, I am determined to do everything in my power to help the flood victims of Ohio," Taft said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. "The flooding is truly devastating."
    A preliminary damage assessment team of federal, state and local officials have confirmed flood damage at 406 homes with 136 of those considered extensive damage or total losses. Officials will continue to work toward a more complete estimate of local losses but some damage will not be fully known until flood water recedes, Taft said.
    While in Celina on Thursday, Taft called the flooding the worst he has seen in Ohio since he has been in office. In his letter to Bush, Taft asked the president to declare a major disaster for the state due to "high winds, severe thunderstorms and flooding that began on July 4, and are continuing."
    Taft earlier this week declared states of emergency in Mercer, Auglaize, Shelby, Darke and Van Wert counties.
    Bush is expected to decide within days whether the area can receive additional federal assistance through grants and low-interest loans. The president ruled Thursday that flood-ravaged portions of eastern Indiana will get federal help.
    Mercer County Emergency Management officials urge residents whose property suffered flood damage to report it to the local emergency operations center at 419-586-4347.
    As the cleanup continues, Verizon announced Friday that it still could be a few days before telephone service to some customers in the Celina-St. Marys area is fully restored. The flooded St. Marys River has prevented Verizon crews from reaching some equipment that needs repaired.
    Falling limbs and rising waters have resulted in service interruptions to 2,700 customers statewide over the past week.
    "It's been a case of one step forward, one step back all week," said Bob Karshner, Verizon's director of operations in Ohio. "As quickly as our crews would restore service, more rain would fall and we would have new customers without a dial tone."
    Residents who need supplies for cleaning up the mess can pick up free kits at three locations in Mercer County. The kits are available at the Celina and Montezuma fire departments and Celina High School.
    A hazardous materials disposal day has been scheduled for July 19 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Tires and household chemicals like paint and motor oil can be properly disposed of.


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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822