Firelands flooded again Driver and 3-year-old escape from vehicle trapped in high water

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Parts of Huron County received between 4 and more than 7 inches of rain Monday, resulting in multiple road closures and incidents of high water.

Norwalk's official total was 4.14 inches of rain, breaking the old record of 2.07 inches set in 1991. Norwalk received 5.42 inches of rain during last year's June flood.

One incident Monday on Ridge Road near Peru Olena Road was nearly disastrous.

The Pontiac Sunfire driven by Lisa M. Greaves, 25, of 13 1/2 Garden St., hydroplaned at 10:20 a.m. and was swept downstream. Also in the vehicle was her 3-year-old passenger, Alyssa Makovic.

"The car went into the creek, got pushed underwater underneath a bridge and came out the other side," Huron County Sheriff's Sgt. Annette McLaughlin said. "A window evidently popped or something and the car got hung up on a tree limb and she was able to force her way to safety."

North Central EMS transported Greaves and the girl to Fisher-Titus Medical Center. The driver was treated and released. Hospital officials declined to release any information on the toddler because of her age.

"I think the car is still in the creek," McLaughlin said early this morning, calling Greaves' story miraculous.

Sheriff's dispatchers received more than three dozen calls of high water in the county. The sheriff's office also got reports of vehicles stuck in high water on Peru Olena Road near Old State Road and South Norwalk Road east of Ohio 61.

The state Highway Patrol's policy is to provide a list of towing services for motorists whose vehicles are stuck in high water. It is up to the individual to have it removed.

"We don't tow vehicles basically unless there's a reason to impound it," explained Lt. Jim Bryan.

The Norwalk post commander said he "couldn't even begin to tell you" how many calls the patrol received about high water incidents or vehicles being stuck. Bryan called the Greaves incident "the most dramatic I heard," saying the post was inundated with calls starting late Monday morning and early afternoon.

Bryan stressed that residents should call the patrol only if they have a "pressing need." He said many people "tied up the phone lines" Monday by asking about road closings; he preferred only those motorists in an emergency call dispatchers.

The post commander wants people to take a moment to consider how important their call is.

"If it's not an emergency, don't call us. Leave the lines open for someone stuck in high water," Bryan said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation advises the patrol about state and U.S. routes. The county engineer's office provides troopers with information about county and township roads.

Bill Ommert, the director of the Huron County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), said residents' best places to call about road closures is their respective townships, villages or cities. He noted that in a situation like Monday's, law enforcement officers are "pretty busy."

"People should never run through water. We just about lost a lady (Greaves) with that," Ommert said.

Bellevue was hit the hardest with high water. EMA officials used pumps and sand bags at the Mill Pond where nearby homes were in danger of being flooded.

"The (U.S. 20) underpass was flooded. Nobody could get through," said Ommert, who wasn't aware of any county residents forced to leave their homes.

Bryan has a personal rule-of-thumb about high water, but stressed motorists should always err on the side of caution.

"If you can see the roadway through the water, be very careful," he said. "If you can't see the roadway through the water, don't go through.

"Six inches of water will float a car away. ... It also will take you away," Bryan said. "Don't go through high water. It's not worth risking your life."

Ommert said there were "a lot of flooded basements" in the county. He suggested people get them cleaned and aired out as soon as possible to keep mold from growing.

People who are handicapped, elderly or have special needs which would keep them from cleaning their basements are encouraged to call the Huron County Emergency Management Agency at (419) 663-5772 so EMA officials can arrange assistance.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and watches for counties west and south of Toledo all the way east to Youngstown and Steubenville.

In Bucyrus, the fire department used a boat to rescue families from flooded homes this morning as rain continued to linger. And in Shelby, the Black Fork River overflowed, closing roads and flooding homes and businesses. Police evacuated two roads nearest the river, which runs directly through the center of town, according to dispatcher Renee Seibolt.

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