KINSMAN – Sandy Mancini didn't know what to pack when firefighters arrived at her door and told her she had a short time to evacuate her home Saturday morning on Gulf Drive, a short distance from the Lakeview Drive earthen dam road that connects the area to the rest of Kinsman.

Mancini said it was difficult to decide what items should take priority. "Some people didn't even bring pajamas for their kids," she said.

The residents were evacuated on all-terrain vehicles.

At least 55 people and 30 animals were removed from 21 homes, said Kinsman Township Trustee Linda Miller. She said the final estimates of damage and number of homes that will be condemned will take some time to complete.

The earthen dam was constructed in the 1930s, said Kinsman Township Trustee Greg Leonard, who witnessed the wall of water take out the road around 8:15 a.m. He said he called Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, who was on the scene within 30 minutes.

Leonard said he has lived on Lakeview Drive since 1990 and never would have thought the water would unleash such a powerful surge.

"Within minutes, it was over the dam and surging like the River Niagara," he said. "There were 60- to 70-foot pine trees collapsing into the rushing water. It was like dominoes.

"I would have bet my paycheck that this could never happen. Lake Kinsman was in my front yard."

Leonard said he was fortunate , because there was no damage to his home. But his neighbor across the street has already had his home condemned due to foundation erosion.

The situation got even more personal as relatives were also dealing with flooding issues. "My dad's house is basically destroyed," Leonard said.

He said the water took the road away, and the debris – including numerous trees – created a temporary water blockage about 50 yards south of the existing dam.

Rain and erosion

Area residents, county officials and utility repair professionals viewed the damage on Monday afternoon from the west side of the dam.

Township officials and Trumbull County crews jumped into action on Saturday and have been working for three days to provide relief and begin reconstruction plans, said Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith.

"From all reports, there were 7.9 inches of rain that fell over a 24-hour period, and most of it was in a more concentrated time period," Smith said. He said the water levels were so high in Kinsman Lake that the road collapsed and eroded all the way down the embankment, creating a large gap that will have to be repaired.

Smith said the erosion took the road, the dirt underneath, a gas line and guide rails.

The damage estimates run into the millions and state and federal officials have been contacted with the hopes of funding assistance from Ohio. "We are well into the process," he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also involved in the planning of the reconstruction efforts, Smith said.

Early road and bridge damage estimates range in the $2.5 to $3 million range , but could go higher, he said.

"It could be between $4 and $5 million," Smith said.

That does not include all the homes that will need to be abandoned or replaced.

Smith hopes to have estimates complete Tuesday so state, federal and local officials can address the needs.

Miller said it is going to take time to finalize a list of the people affected and how many families will not be able to return to their homes due to structural damage.

In addition to the immediate damage around Kinsman Lake, other areas in Kinsman were damaged as well, Smith said. He said a bridge and two culverts were lost.

'Your heart aches'

Customers at a local convenience store hugged one another and shared stories of homes lost.

Mancini said it has been a very difficult experience but it has also been great to see all the people who have reached out to help others in a time of distress.

"You miss your home and your heart aches," Mancini said but the Red Cross, Salvation Army, neighbors and churches have all reached out to help.

More than 20 families are facing a long period of reconstruction or time away from their homes, according to Leonard and Mancini.

Mancini said they were told it would likely be two to three months until they could live in their homes. She said all vehicles are still at the houses.

Township officials are hoping to coordinate home visits to secure the structures and retrieve food from refrigerators, but the residents will not be able to stay, Mancini was told.

Mancini said it has been a very difficult experience but it has also been great to see all the people who have reached out to help others in a time of distress. She said the family is staying with her son and daughter-in-law, but hopes to find a place to rent.

"You miss your home and your heart aches," Mancini said but the Red Cross, Salvation Army, neighbors and churches have all reached out to help.

"It makes you realize that no matter how depressing some things are, there are good people in the world," she said.

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