Parts of Firelands flooded;rest of Ohio soggy too

The threat of worsened flooding stretched today across Ohio, where two days of rain left water covering some busy roads and pushed rain-swollen rivers and creeks past their breaking points. In Huron County, flooding has been reported in Norwalk, some of the villages and outlying areas.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

The threat of worsened flooding stretched today across Ohio, where two days of rain left water covering some busy roads and pushed rain-swollen rivers and creeks past their breaking points.

In Huron County, flooding has been reported in Norwalk, some of the villages and outlying areas.

New London Police Chief Mark Holden had 1/2 to 1 inch of water in his Birch Park Drive basement this morning. “There was high water all over the place (in the village). It’s gone down a good bit. … It’s all gone right now,” the chief said just after 9 a.m.

Monroeville Police Sgt. Frank Gleason called the village “very fortunate” because the water was draining “pretty well.” He said Marsh Field, on Peru Center Road, was “up a little bit” but with about 1 1/2 feet of water there as of 8 a.m.

Reflector reporters are currently working on stories about the flooding. Those stories will appear in the print edition later today and be added to this Web site after that.

In northwest Ohio, city leaders in Findlay hoped to avoid another major flood just months after the city was swamped by historic flooding.

The Blanchard River, which runs through the city, was rising about 5 inches an hour during heavy rains Tuesday afternoon and was predicted to hit 4 feet above flood stage by Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Gary Valentine, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, said that despite the rising river, the outlook was not as bad as officials thought on Tuesday.

“It’s getting worse, but it’s moving slower,” Valentine said Wednesday morning.

Rescue boats were on standby. If evacuations become necessary, Valentine said a winter flood creates different problems than one in the summer.

“Then we had warm water; now we have ice water,” he said. “Then people waded out of their homes and walked to dry land; this time when you’re asked if you want to leave, think about it twice if you’re inclined to stay. We don’t want people wading in ice water and getting hypothermia.”

The downpours left standing water across all lanes of Interstate 75 just north of Findlay early Wednesday, forcing a shutdown for more than two hours. The major north-south highway was reopened just before 6:30 a.m., the State Highway Patrol said.

In Cincinnati in southwest Ohio, one heavily traveled city street was closed during afternoon rush hour Tuesday because a mudslide knocked over a retaining wall.

That corner of the state also had problems with strong winds that reached 60 mph and downed trees and power lines, resulting in outages in several counties. The weather service planned to investigate reports from the public that tornadoes had touched down.

The main street in the village of Bethel east of Cincinnati was closed about midnight because of fallen trees. Part of the metal roof was ripped off a produce and gardening supply store, and a plate glass window burst at a gas station.

Flooding of the Grand River in Painesville, east of Cleveland, closed a bridge over the waterway. Flooding there in 2006 destroyed a riverfront condominium complex and forced residents to cling to rooftops awaiting rescue.

In Louisville, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland, rain created a 3-foot pond outside Greg Barress’ apartment by Tuesday afternoon after a creek overflowed.

“I have never seen it that bad,” Barress told The (Canton) Repository. “It kept coming. I watched the water rise. I was thinking, I guess I am not going to work today.’ I had no idea how I was going to get out.”

Contributing to the problem was melting snow and frozen ground that doesn’t absorb water, said Gary Connor, Stark County hydraulics engineer.

In Mansfield, about 60 miles north of Columbus, Ron Harvey also missed a day of work when his cleaning and restoration business was hit Tuesday morning by about five inches of water, the fourth time in two years he’s experienced flooding.

“They know it’s a problem,” Harvey said of city, state and federal officials. “Now every heavy rain ... we get nailed down here.”

Juanita Brooks lost her furnace and water heater to three or four feet of water in her basement. She missed work and two of her children missed school.

She’s considering moving from her home of 20 years.

“I just can’t lose everything again,” she told the Mansfield News Journal. “I love my old house. It was beautiful.”

In Findlay, city leaders were ready to warn business owners that they should be ready to move if the Blanchard River spills over into the downtown area Wednesday.

The state’s natural resources department said it will have boats ready if they are needed, Barker said. Police planned to put cruisers at all fire stations in case the floodwaters split the city in half, which is what happened in late August.

Neighborhoods were isolated last summer when heavy rains dumped up to 10 inches during a few hours, bringing the city’s worst flood since 1913. Damage to city-owned buildings and property was estimated to be as much as $31 million.

Hancock County and five other counties were declared federal disaster zones.

Owners of restaurants, law offices and bars in downtown had to tear out their walls and rebuild. The flood also damaged a library, office buildings and a school. The city is buying some homes in the worst flood areas with the help of the federal government.