Thursday, August 23rd, 2007


River crests, evacuations climb
The flooding Blanchard River crested Wednesday and slowly began receding, after forcing more than 900 Findlay residents from their homes and leaving the city's downtown awash.
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Emergency plan brings in help for water rescues
Help for Findlay residents stranded in the flood came from all directions Wednesday, after local officials implemented a state emergency response plan for the first time.
more >>
Shelter housing hundreds
About 200 local flood refugees were planning to spend Wednesday night at the Red Cross shelter, which was moved from St. Andrew's United Methodist Church to the rec center when floodwaters began to rise downtown.
more >>
Flood prompts evacuation of inmates
The rising floodwaters in downtown Findlay prompted hundreds of evacuations around Findlay Wednesday, but none as massive as the one at the Hancock County Justice Center.
more >>
Businesses swamped
Nelson Treadway came to work Wednesday to find his inventory of 150 cars a loss, up to the doors and hoods in floodwater.
more >>
Flood causes power outage
OTTAWA — As floodwaters continued to pour into the Blanchard River from Hancock, Wyandot and Hardin counties, the Putnam County villages of Ottawa and Glandorf braced for the worst on Wednesday: flooding that could break all the records.
more >>
Rescuer gets glimpse of flood's devastation
Volunteering is kind of in my blood.
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Many local streets remain impassible
Numerous streets and roads in Findlay and Hancock County remained closed late Wednesday night as the result of high water conditions.
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Pandora resident saves boy, grandma from flood
PANDORA — Josh Huffman missed work Tuesday when the floodwaters washed away the bridge leading from his house to the road.
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Villages begin cleanup after floods
By MARGARET DWIGGINS
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Wyandot officials await FEMA personnel
CAREY — Wyandot County officials are waiting for Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel to arrive in the county for an assessment of the flood damage as part of an effort to receive disaster relief, according to Roger Brodman, emergency management agency director for the county.
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Evacuees begin returning to flooded residences
BLUFFTON -- The cleanup effort was under way Wednesday in Bluffton as residents returned to homes saturated from floodwaters.
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Electric company officials warn of danger from floods
With flooding comes a danger of electrocution, electric company officials warned Wednesday.
more >>
Hancock fair will go on as scheduled
Despite this week's flooding, the Hancock County Fair will go on as scheduled next week, operations and facilities manager Dave Thomas said Wednesday.
more >>
Local News

River crests, evacuations climb

By JOHN GRABER

STAFF WRITER

The flooding Blanchard River crested Wednesday and slowly began receding, after forcing more than 900 Findlay residents from their homes and leaving the city's downtown awash.

Gov. Ted Strickland promised National Guard troops could be in Findlay and other areas hit by the current flooding within hours, if they are needed and requested by local authorities.

"Right now we have no requests (for Guardsmen)," said Strickland, who flew into town by helicopter Wednesday afternoon.

The state has declared nine counties to be disaster areas. They are Hancock, Allen, Crawford, Hardin, Putnam, Richland, Seneca, Van Wert and Wyandot.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working with Strickland's office to determine what sorts of federal aid may be available to people in those counties.

In the meantime, Strickland pledged the cooperation of all state agencies in responding to the flooding. Centers will be set up for residents seeking state aid once the extent of the situation is determined.

"Right now we're in the discovery stage," he said.

Strickland toured the area from the air before visiting with displaced residents staying in the American Red Cross shelter, which was moved early Wednesday to the Cube on North Main Street.

"I'm here to tell folks things will get better," said Strickland, a former congressman who represented residents along the Ohio River who suffered from past floods.

Floods can be particularly devastating because they invade people's homes, the governor said.

"Your home is where you feel safe," Strickland said.

Findlay resident Wendy Pocock broke down into tears as she threw her arms around the governor.

"We lost everything," she sobbed.

The good news is, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported locally, but Strickland sympathized with the sheer number of people who have been hit in other ways by the flooding.

"We flew in by helicopter and you can see entire sections of the city where just about every home has been inundated by water," he said.



River receding

The current flooding approached historic levels, but officials disagreed Wednesday about exactly how high the Blanchard River got.

The river apparently crested at 3 p.m. Wednesday at 17.84 feet, according to city officials. Flood stage is 11 feet.

"We've passed the 1981 flood (level) and we're approaching the 1913 flood level. That was 18.5 feet, but hopefully we won't get there," Findlay Service Director Mike Sobczyk said Wednesday afternoon.

The 1981 flood was considered a "100-year" flood, while the 1913 flood was the worst on record in Findlay.

Other officials reported different heights for the river's crest on Wednesday. Hancock County Commissioner Phillip Riegle reported at 5:30 p.m. that the river had topped out at 19.1 feet, which would surpass the 1913 level of 18.5 feet.

On the other hand, the National Weather Service's Web site said the crest was 18.46 feet, which would put the flood just below the 1913 event.

The river was slowly receding Wednesday night, the weather service said, and by 9 p.m. had fallen to 18.08 feet.

The National Weather Service was predicting the river would go below flood stage by Thursday night.

But more rain was expected Wednesday evening, and city officials were not sure how the rain would affect the river.

More sand was being trucked to the Cube in case any residents need to fill sandbags.



More evacuations

People were still being evacuated from their Findlay homes Wednesday night.

Findlay Fire Chief Tom Lonyo estimated that about 400 people were evacuated Tuesday night, and another 500 people and counting were pulled out of the water Wednesday and Wednesday night.

City fire officials set up a water rescue command center at Findlay High School around 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Lonyo said more than 35 rescue boats converged on Findlay from all over the state. He added that by Wednesday night, the Coast Guard was taking over water rescue operations in Findlay.

People actually trapped in the water were taking priority over people simply stuck in their homes.

Anyone needing to be evacuated in the city were told to call (419) 424-7150. Those in Hancock County still needing to be evacuated were told to call either 911 or (419) 422-2424.



Seeking shelter

More than 60 people were moved Wednesday morning from the American Red Cross shelter in St. Andrew's United Methodist Church to the new shelter at the Cube.

About 200 people were planning to spend Wednesday night at the shelter, American Red Cross Hancock County Chapter Executive Director Judy Cantwell said.

There was plenty of room for more displaced people at the shelter, Cantwell said — they were equipped to handle 350 evacuees by late Wednesday.

"A lot of people have come in and gone. A lot of people just came in to make sure they have a place to sleep tonight and left."

Cots and other supplies were continuing to stream down from Toledo, Sobczyk said.

Cantwell urged people to remember that the Red Cross particularly needs financial donations in times like this.

"All of the services given to people here in our community are made possible because of financial donations," Cantwell said.

Donations can be mailed to the American Red Cross, 125 Fair St., Findlay 45840. The words "Hancock Flood" should be written in the memo portion of checks to ensure donations remain in the area.

Red Cross officials are estimating the flood damage in the region between $500,000 and $1 million.



Interstate open

Interstate 75 remained the only major north-south route that was open through Findlay and Hancock County at 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the State Highway Patrol (a road closing list appears on page A3).

Findlay Police Chief Bill Spraw urged everyone to stay home and off the streets as much as possible. Police officers were actually responding to calls by dump truck and other city-owned vehicles in order to make it through the floodwaters.

City employees were going door to door Tuesday before the flooding hit in order to warn people to leave, Mayor Tony Iriti said.

The extent of Wednesday's flooding was difficult to prepare for, he noted.

"Yesterday was kind of an anomaly because areas not normally affected by flooding were affected by flash floods ... and after that, the river came up," Iriti said.



Prisoners moved

The downtown flooding prompted Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman to move about 90 inmates out of the Hancock County Justice Center on Crawford Street after water inched up to the facility early Wednesday.

Even though the jail is located on the second floor of the building, Heldman said he and others had concerns about the water supply should the flooding worsen.

"We're doing it as a precaution," he said.

About 50 felony offenders were transported to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker, while the remaining prisoners were taken to the Rehabilitation and Opportunity Center, located on County Road 140.

Heldman said the prisoners would be returned to the jail later this week once the flood waters receded.

Findlay and Hancock County government offices will be closed today. If the river level lowers to 15 feet, Hancock County employees who want to can report to work for cleanup duty, and they should dress appropriately, Commissioner Riegle said.

Contact staff writer John Graber at:

(419) 427-8417

johngraber@thecourier.com

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Emergency plan brings in help for water rescues

By J. STEVEN DILLON

STAFF WRITER

Help for Findlay residents stranded in the flood came from all directions Wednesday, after local officials implemented a state emergency response plan for the first time.

The plan provided much needed relief for local firefighters, some of whom had been on duty for two days and were running ragged from evacuating residents Tuesday from neighborhoods in the Spring Lake subdivision and along Brookside, East-View and West-View drives.

Local firefighters had also assisted a water rescue of two men near Mount Blanchard Tuesday afternoon.

“The guys were going from one call to the next, sometimes directly,” Fire Chief Tom Lonyo said. “We were getting a lot of help from county fire departments, but we were still having a hard time staying caught up because of the volume of calls.”

Lonyo said he asked Hancock County Emergency Management Agency Director Garry Valentine to initiate the emergency response plan at about 4 a.m. Wednesday, when it became clear that floodwaters would continue to rise throughout the city.

Within several hours, he said, help began to converge on Findlay from around Ohio, and by midday around three dozen rescue boats had arrived, including several hovercrafts, and several units from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They were manned by countless firefighters, police officers and EMTs who volunteered to come to Findlay to help.

The water rescues were directed from a command center set up at Findlay High School at 6 a.m. Wednesday, and by late Wednesday there had been an estimated 500 evacuations and rescues -- on top of 400 evacuations and rescues Tuesday night.

To help reduce response time, Lonyo said “mini” command centers also were established at different points along the Blanchard River and other flood-prone areas.

“It (the emergency plan) seems to be working very well,” Lonyo said. “We would have never been able to keep up without all the help we got.”

The emergency effort was further aided when the county set up its mobile command center in the parking lot at St. Marks United Methodist Church at 7 a.m. Wednesday, and used it to link communications between the various agencies involved in the water-relief efforts.

By mid-afternoon, 200 radios had been delivered to the command center from the Ohio EMA offices in Columbus, and were programmed to operate on the same frequency.

“The radios make it easier for everyone to talk to each other,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Cris Bell said. He said the flood is the biggest emergency where the vehicle has been used to date. It will remain in use until the flooding has subsided.

Despite being under a “state of emergency,” Hancock County Sheriff’s Capt. Roger Treece said the sheriff’s office is continuing to staff at regular levels to keep deputies from “burning out.”

“We really don’t know how long this is going to last,” he said.

Treece said deputies had been dispatched Tuesday to rural areas when the flooding started in places like Arlington, Mount Blanchard and Bluffton.

On Wednesday, they were assigned more duties in Findlay, where the worst flooding was concentrated. Deputies handled scattered other calls, most involving traffic problems related to road closings in the rural areas.

City police officers, meanwhile, went to 12-hour shifts beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to Lt. Sean Young, and patrolmen were assigned to one of two command centers, at the Family Resource Center on the north side and at the St. Marks Church Annex on the south.

Most dispatch operations, meanwhile, were still being conducted from the second floor of the Findlay Municipal Building, which reportedly had significant flooding in the basement.

While firefighters handled the majority of the evacuations and rescues Wednesday, city police also responded to many calls for assistance.

Whenever appropriate, Young said, officers would respond to flooded areas in city-owned dump trucks -- and move residents from their homes if needed.

“Basically if we could get to them in the trucks, we would do it,” Young said. “If we couldn’t, we’d send the fire guys in after them with the boats.”

Evacuations and rescues were continuing Wednesday night.

Contact staff writer J. Steven Dillon at: (419) 427-8423 stevedillon@thecourier.com

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Shelter housing hundreds

By MICHELLE REITER

STAFF WRITER

About 200 local flood refugees were planning to spend Wednesday night at the Red Cross shelter, which was moved from St. Andrew's United Methodist Church to the rec center when floodwaters began to rise downtown.

And there was room for more, if they came.

On Wednesday afternoon, people were waiting in line for assistance and cots; food lined shelves and tables; clothing and shoes lined more tables; and people were everywhere.

"This is like a national (disaster)," said Dick Baker, a Red Cross disaster assessment volunteer who travels to disaster sites across the country.

In fact, it was. The local Red Cross was working hard, and was being helped Wednesday by state and federal Red Cross workers.

No one knew exactly how many Red Cross volunteers were there Wednesday afternoon — and very few people had time to speculate.

Judy Cantwell, the director of the local Red Cross, said the work was not done by Red Cross workers alone, however.

"The new Wal-Mart (on U.S. 224 West) has been very, very generous," Cantwell said.

They also received food from restaurants like Frickers and the Upper Room Church of God in Findlay. Cardinal Health donated food supplies.

How much food came in by Wednesday afternoon was hard to tell — the food just kept coming.

Shipments of cots for evacuees also were arriving.

Law enforcement representatives were there, and nurses and mental health workers would be available around the clock.

But not just professionals were actively working to help people at the center — ordinary local residents were also welcome to lend a hand.

Bev Phillips, Hancock County United Way's volunteer service director, said at least 75 people called in to register as volunteers, and about 100 people applied right at the Cube.

That was as of Wednesday afternoon.

Volunteers were put to work doing just about everything — including talking to and consoling the flood victims, said Gary Bright, a volunteer from Century Health.

"We have about five mental health professionals, and three or four non-professionals just going around talking to people," Bright said Wednesday. "We ask them to make the circuit."

He said when people are displaced and living in shelters, psychological distress is hard to avoid. Mental health professionals are trying to make sure they're available to everyone.

"We know anyone who's lost their house is experiencing some kind of trauma," Bright said.

Getting to everyone is hard, but shelter workers were trying to make sure to have plenty, and then some.

Necessities like clothes, shoes and diapers were donated from local places like Chopin Hall, local businesses and people in the community.

People could sift through the donations for what they needed and, as of Wednesday afternoon, there was plenty.

"Most of our immediate needs are currently being met," said Keith DuVernay, the president and CEO of the Hancock County United Way.

Future needs are another matter.

Red Cross volunteer Phyllis Davis said right now the Red Cross is not issuing financial relief cards or doing damage assessments. Meeting everyone's immediate needs — clothes, food and shelter — is more important.

Eventually, when everyone is registered with the Red Cross and the thick of the flood crisis has passed, the Red Cross may begin issuing relief money to help families, and will begin doing damage assessments as soon as possible.

The Red Cross is also moving its headquarters from the Cube to the Stonebridge Church of God, 2111 Stonehedge Drive in Findlay, but the shelter will remain at the Cube.

DuVernay also said that contributions to the United Way will be appreciated, and all of the money donated will go to flood victims. When the Red Cross runs out of funds, United Way would then be able to help, he said.

Contact Staff Writer Michelle Reiter at:

(419) 427-8497

michellereiter@thecourier.com

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Flood prompts evacuation of inmates

By J. STEVEN DILLON

STAFF WRITER

The rising floodwaters in downtown Findlay prompted hundreds of evacuations around Findlay Wednesday, but none as massive as the one at the Hancock County Justice Center.

About 90 inmates were escorted under heavy guard from the jail to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO) in Williams County, and to the Rehabilitation and Opportunity Center located on County Road 140.

The evacuation marked the first time the jail has been empty since it opened in 1989.

Sheriff Mike Heldman said the health and safety of the inmates was the primary factor in the decision to move them, even though the jail, which is located on the second floor, was still “high and dry” Wednesday afternoon.

The sheriff said the decision to vacate the jail came after talking with Hancock County Prosecutor Mark Miller and judges from common pleas and municipal courts.

The logistics were arranged by jail Lt. Ryan Kidwell, CCNO authorities and the State Highway Patrol.

“We’re doing it as a precaution,” Heldman said. “We discussed it Wednesday morning, and decided it was something we should do. The biggest thing was the uncertainty of the water supply should the flooding worsen and should the city decide to shut off the water.

“We can’t operate it (the jail) without water.”

Sheriff Heldman said it had yet to be determined how long the inmates would be housed elsewhere, but said they would more than likely be returned to the jail by the end of the week.

“It could be tomorrow, depending on the flooding,” he said.

Because the jail was surrounded by water Wednesday, the move involved loading the inmates from the county jail onto a military transport vehicle and taking them to a CCNO bus which was parked on Lima Avenue.

The prisoners were individually searched and handcuffed before being loaded on the bus. They were under heavy guard throughout the transfer process.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Breyman said the felony offenders were taken to CCNO while those being held on misdemeanor charges will be housed at the ROC, the county’s work-release facility.

About a dozen “worker” inmates, those assigned maintenance and other duties at the jail, remained behind at the justice center.

Heldman noted that he doesn’t anticipate deputies will have to move the inmates back and forth much for hearings, since cases in both city and county courts are likely to be canceled the remainder of the week due to the flooding.

Contact staff writer J. Steven Dillon at: (419) 427-8423 stevedillon@thecourier.com

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Businesses swamped

By LOU WILIN

STAFF WRITER

Nelson Treadway came to work Wednesday to find his inventory of 150 cars a loss, up to the doors and hoods in floodwater.

The owner and president of Treadway Chrysler Dodge, just west of Findlay on U.S. 224, estimates he lost more than $2 million.

"We're essentially wiped out," he said.

Fifty additional cars on the lot, owned by customers who left them there for repairs, also are among the casualties.

Treadway was blindsided. In 17 years at the U.S. 224 site, his business has never been flooded. He said he had no advance warning of the severity of this week's flood.

As Treadway approached his dealership Wednesday morning, he felt disbelief.

"This caught us way off guard," he said.

He also can't help but notice that just across the street the land is still high and dry at Rettig Brothers Furniture, Tony's Restaurant and Car Mart Auto Group.

With a little warning, he could have moved his vehicles, he said.

Treadway is looking to Chrysler for help by sending him some vehicles to sell.

Miller's Luncheonette owner Greg Miller saw the flood coming, but in his case, it didn't matter.

He sounded weary Wednesday morning when he answered the phone.

Miller was still at home — hadn't even been to his Main Street restaurant yet to view the damage.

He didn't have to. When the Blanchard River swells, it typically bleeds its muddy filth into Miller's Luncheonette. This is the ninth time since his parents opened the eatery in 1949, he said.

"I know what I'm going to be facing," Miller said. "It's not good."

That sinking feeling was a little less deep in the voices of other downtown merchants who were new to the flooding scenario.

Bindel's Appliance is approaching 40 years at its 214 S. Main St. location and never before — not even in 1981 — has the store been flooded.

But Jack Bindel found 6-10 inches of water in his store Wednesday afternoon.

Having never dealt with it before, Bindel said he does not know exactly what is ahead. As the water level goes down, he will survey the damage, he said. Probably some appliances have been ruined or at least damaged.

"My biggest concern is making sure we can operate within the next few days," Bindel said.

Being closed will cost him $5,000 per day in business, he said. He has a warehouse on West Hardin Street where he stores appliances and probably will operate from that site temporarily.

"At least we can have a sale," he said, upbeat. "It's a good reason for a sale."

Gaslight Gifts owner Jim Marckel had been high and dry for 24 years at 408 S. Main St.

"This is a new game for me," Marckel said. "I've never been involved in anything like this before."

Water came up through the crawl space and leaked through the front door on Tuesday, covering the floor.

"I had no idea it was going to be like this," he said.

Marckel said his wood floor and some merchandise probably will have to be replaced.

He expects to lose two to four days worth of business — "several thousand dollars right there," he sighed.

An insurance representative met with Marckel at the store Wednesday. The insurance will cover damage from water which came up from the crawlspace, Marckel learned. Damage from water which seeped through the front door is Marckel's responsibility.

Marckel wonders how it will be determined which water damage came from the crawlspace and which came from the front door.

He also was counting on friends to come with their wet vacuums to help him try to salvage his wood floor.

"It's discouraging and it's hard to get the help because everybody needs the help," Marckel said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Greg Miller still had not gone to look at his restaurant.

He saw no point in hurrying.

"It's going to be weeks," he said.

Miller has contacted his insurer. When the water recedes, he will push the mud from his restaurant surfaces with a power washer. Electricians and plumbers will be hired to check and repair things.

"It's going to be a long time," he said.

Contact staff writer Lou Wilin at:

(419) 427-8413

louwilin@thecourier.com

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Flood causes power outage

By DENISE GRANT

Staff Writer

OTTAWA — As floodwaters continued to pour into the Blanchard River from Hancock, Wyandot and Hardin counties, the Putnam County villages of Ottawa and Glandorf braced for the worst on Wednesday: flooding that could break all the records.

It is going to be close.

As of Wednesday night, the National Weather Service was predicting that the Blanchard River at Ottawa would crest at 2 a.m. today at 31.2 feet, which is eight feet above the flood stage of 23 feet.

Both villages were already experiencing heavy flooding Wednesday, and lost power in the afternoon when floodwaters submerged an American Electric Power substation.

Ben Benroth, who was serving as spokesman for the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday, said AEP was attempting to restore power with portable generators.

However, power most likely won't be restored until this afternoon or evening.

County residents who suffer with respiratory conditions, or any individual experiencing respiratory difficulty, should report to a shelter.

The American Red Cross has established two shelters — at the Trinity United Lutheran Church, at the corner of Main and Pratt streets in Ottawa, and at the Scout House in Ottawa Park.

The Ottawa Veterinary Clinic, 4084 E. Main St., is housing evacuated pets. The clinic is located at the east edge of town, outside of the flooded area.

The Putnam EMA has established a public service phone number that residents can call for information about river conditions and roadways. The number (419) 538-7006.

All Putnam County government offices will be closed today. County employees are being advised to check media outlets for further updates.

The worst flooding in Ottawa's history occurred on the same day that the City of Findlay saw its worst flood: March 13, 1913. The river level rose to 33.3 feet in Ottawa during that flood — a full 10 feet above flood stage.

It probably goes without saying that officials in Putnam County aren't anxious to see a record-setting flood this time. Putnam County's only saving grace may be that it didn't rain a lot in areas downstream of Ottawa and Glandorf, which means the river may drain quickly enough to lower the expected crest, Benroth said.

As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the river was at 30.6 feet. It had been climbing at a rate of 6 inches per hour Wednesday morning.

Putnam County is one of the nine counties included in Gov. Ted Strickland's disaster declaration on Wednesday. Those counties also include Hancock, Allen, Crawford, Hardin, Richland, Seneca, Van Wert and Wyandot.

The declaration will make those counties eligible for federal help.

The Blanchard River in Putnam County went over its banks at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The county declared a state of emergency late Tuesday, asking the State of Ohio for help. Putnam EMA officials asked for boats and help with law enforcement as they responded to the flood.

Benroth said about 40 to 50 people had been evacuated from residences along the Blanchard River by Wednesday afternoon. Benroth anticipated at least 100 people would be evacuated by day's end on Wednesday. The fire department was going from door to door checking on residents.

There were no reports of injury or loss of life.

Until the floodwaters subside, area residents are being asked to avoid Ottawa and Glandorf.



Roads closed

The following roads were closed Wednesday in Putnam County:

Ohio 66, between U.S. 224 and Ohio 114; Road M, between Ohio 65 and Road 8-M; Road Q, between Ohio 634 and Ohio 190; Road O, between Ohio 65 and Old State Route 65; Road 20, between Road P and U.S. 224; Road 19, between Road N and Road M-17; Road Z, between Road 10 and Road 7; Road M-17, between Road 19 and Road 20; Road 7-Q, between Ohio 15 and Road P; Road 7, between Road Q and Road Z; oad P, between Ohio 115 and Road 16-Q; Road M, between Road 7-L and Road 5; Road R, between Road 16-O and Ohio 15; Old Ohio 224, between Road 7 and Road 1; Road J, between Road 14-I and Road 13; Road 3, between Road Q and Road R; Road K, between Road 14-J and Road 13; Road 2, between Road A and Road C; Road 13, between Road K and U.S. 224; Road 1, between U.S. 224 and Road M; Road 10-L, between Road 10-K and Road M; Road N, between Road 6-M and Road 25-N; Road 8P, between Ohio 12 and Road R; U.S. 224 in Ottawa, west of the bridge; Second Street, between Ohio 65 and Elm Street, Ottawa; Perry Street, from Titan Plaza South.

Contact staff writer Denise Grant at:

(419) 427-8412

denisegrant@thecourier.com

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Rescuer gets glimpse of flood's devastation

By MARK HEIMAN

STAFF WRITER

Volunteering is kind of in my blood.

For 20 years I have been a volunteer firefighter, the last 17 for Allen Township in Van Buren. That pales in comparison to my father, who is still an active volunteer in Tontogany after 55-plus years.

Actually, he is more active than I am because parental and work duties tend to get in the way for me.

But the bug is always there; so when the pager went off early Wednesday and Findlay was requesting volunteers for more rescue operations, I was ready to help.

I reported to Findlay High a little after 7 a.m. and awaited my assignment.

After about an hour, a call came in that a man was clinging to a pole near Factory Street and Clinton Court. My assignment was to help man a boat brought in by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In a huge bit of coincidence, I was paired with ODNR officer Neil Brokamp, who works on Lake Erie and the Maumee River. The irony came in that Neil is engaged to a lifelong friend of mine, but I had never met him.

By the time we made our way over to Blanchard Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to launch the boat, the individual had been rescued. We were immediately dispatched to Cherry Street where we helped 10 individuals reach safety.

After our short stint in the North Blanchard area, it was back to the high school for another assignment. By that time, other ODNR officers had arrived from Sandusky and were dispatched to the staging area at St. Mark's United Methodist Church.

I was lucky enough to remain with Neil, because I knew Findlay and he didn't know how to get around.

After a brief time at St. Marks, we were sent to South Street to help remove a family. At that time, we were joined by one of Neil's co-workers, Cory Hartman, who is a former neighbor of mine.

The three of us spent the next six to seven hours in a Jon or flat boat, plucking people from their homes from the river to Lincoln Street and taking them to the Marathon parking lot. When we weren't taking people from their homes, we were checking on the welfare of people that remained in their homes.

The devastation was amazing to me, although Neil had experience in flooding, having helped after Hurricane Katrina. There was water everywhere. Houses had water halfway up their windows, and cars were completely submerged.

It's a sight that I'll never forget and hope to never relive.

Contact staff writer Mark Heiman at:

(419) 427-8405

markheiman@thecourier.com

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Many local streets remain impassible

Numerous streets and roads in Findlay and Hancock County remained closed late Wednesday night as the result of high water conditions.

The list is as follows:

U.S. highways

• U.S. 224 west of Findlay

• U.S. 568 near County Road 7

City streets

As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the Findlay Police Department had closed the following streets because of flooding. Police are urging residents to not drive through standing water.

• West Hardin from Western to South Main; East Hardin at East Street

• Bright Road from Sandusky to Saratoga

• Main Street at the bridge; Main and Sandusky; Main at Walnut

• East Lima Street at Beech Street

• South Blanchard Street

• East Street just south of East Lincoln to East Lima

• East Lima Street east to Park Street; Park Street and East Lima Street to first alley north of Hancock

• Selby Street

• Fishlock Avenue

• East Main Cross from South Main through Blanchard to Osborne

• West Main Cross from Interstate 75 to Main Street• Blanchard Avenue

• Sixth and Fifth streets

• Brookside

• East-View and West-View

• East Sandusky Street; West Sandusky Street from Western to Main

• East Crawford east to Blanchard; West Crawford Street from Main to South West

• Lincoln at East

• Broad at Findlay

• Defiance at North Cory

• Tiffin at Blanchard, no westbound traffic

• Trenton at Main, no trucks southbound

• Defiance at North Main

• Morey at College

• Davis at College

• Western at Sandusky; Western at Hardin

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Pandora resident saves boy, grandma from flood

By MICHELLE REITER

STAFF WRITER

PANDORA — Josh Huffman missed work Tuesday when the floodwaters washed away the bridge leading from his house to the road.

Later he thought it was lucky he did.

If he hadn't missed work, the 32-year-old Charles Construction employee wouldn't have been there when floodwaters over the road washed away a vehicle occupied by a young boy and his grandmother near his home between Bluffton and Pandora, and he may not have been there to save their lives before they went downstream with the flood.

But he was there.

"Their car had been sucked off the road," he said Wednesday. Huffman was trying to rebuild the bridge that had washed away so he could get to work when a woman who saw the vehicle wash away ran up to his driveway.

"She pointed to the left, and I could see somebody being taken downstream," he said. "There was a boy being sucked downstream."

Huffman ran to the boy, who he said looked to be about 8 or 9 years old. He took his shoes off and swam toward the boy who was calling out desperately.

"He kept saying, 'I don't want to die, I don't want to die,'" Huffman recalled. "I said, 'You're not going to die. Just float on your back. You're going to be fine.'"

The boy did, and Huffman was able to pull him to safety.

Huffman asked if there was still anyone in the car, and the boy said his grandmother was trapped inside. Huffman ran back along the high bank to look for the grandmother. He spotted her in the water while the vehicle floated away.

The woman said she didn't know how to swim. He pulled her to safety.

"I said, 'Just calm down, you're fine,'" he said.

The woman, who Huffman said looked as if she was near 70, called Huffman her guardian angel.

"She said, 'You don't know how close I was to not being here,'" Huffman recalled Wednesday. Huffman replied that maybe it was meant to be that he stayed home from work that day.

Because his bridge washed out, he said, two people's lives might have been saved.

It's not something he does every day, he added.

In fact, when asked if he's ever had the chance to save anyone before, he joked, "C'mon, I'm from Pandora!"

But when he was faced with a drowning child and his grandmother — both of whom were from Lima, he said — he did the only thing he could do.

"You're in a different place and instinct takes over," he said. "Just try and think of living with yourself if you didn't help."

The woman he rescued called him later that night, he said, and thanked him. She said she and her grandson were safe and well.

Huffman was mentioned in a USA Today story Wednesday, a story he had not read by Wednesday night.

After all, he had things to do — like getting his bridge repaired.

He managed that and got to work Wednesday.

"It's rough, but it's passable," he said.

And the vehicle the woman had been driving is still there — a testament to Huffman's rescue.

"It's actually sitting out in the middle of a field," he said.

Contact Staff Writer Michelle Reiter at:

(419) 427-8497

michellereiter@thecourier.com

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Villages begin cleanup after floods

By MARGARET DWIGGINS

Family Editor

Floodwaters had receded in Arlington and Jenera by Wednesday afternoon, leaving residents the task of cleaning up on what became a very hot and humid day.

In Arlington, life appeared to be back to normal along Main Street, but a closer look revealed drainage hoses running from houses that had held several feet of water on Tuesday.

Several residents walked or drove to the Railroad Street entrance to Arlington Park to check out the damage there. The bridge leading into the south end of the park had buckled and was impassable, and water still rushed through the overflowing banks of a creek running through the park.

Pam Wilcox and her daughter, Ashley O’Rear, walked down to the park from their home at the corner of Union and Liberty streets.

Wilcox said their home sits on higher ground than other homes on the street and, while there was some water in their crawlspace, they had only minor water damage. Wilcox said her neighbors were not so lucky, however. Neighbors with basements had several feet of water. Others with no basements saw water creeping up to their living room windows, Wilcox said.

Wilcox, 49, said she has lived in Arlington since she was 2 and, although she has seen streets flood in heavy rains before, she has never seen anything like what she witnessed Tuesday.

“It was like a dream. We were walking in the streets up to our waist in water. We walked to the post office and saw toys floating by us.”

Wilcox said she also saw two dogs caught in the floodwaters, fighting the current and trying to get out.

O’Rear, who woke up Tuesday morning expecting to drive into Findlay for her first day of classes at Owens Community College, at first didn’t believe her mother when she was told there was no way she’d be able to get through the floodwaters to get to class.

Wilcox said she noticed the waters receding on the north end of Arlington by Tuesday evening. She believes the south end of the village, closer to the school, experienced heavier flooding and didn’t see those waters recede until late Tuesday night.

By Tuesday afternoon, she was able to get to the Arlington IGA store, where she said staples such as bread and bottled water appeared to be in plentiful supply.

Larry Lovell, owner/manager of the Arlington IGA, said floodwaters prevented him from opening the store until 4 p.m. Tuesday. Although his bread supplies ran out, he said he’s in good shape otherwise. Bottled water is in especially good supply.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Arlington was under a boil advisory, but Rick Monday, the village’s water superintendent, said no such advisory was ever issued.

“We are not, and have not been, under a boil advisory. The water has been safe the whole time,” Monday said.

Residents of Jenera were also deep into cleanup efforts on Wednesday.

Don Clinger, pastor of the United in Christ United Methodist Church, was busy pushing water from the basement of the church Wednesday afternoon.

Clinger, who lives up Main Street from the church, said he had no idea that the church had flooded until he started walking down the street toward the church Tuesday morning and someone stopped him and told him that he wouldn’t be able to reach the church.

When he arrived, he found water up over his head in the basement. Clinger said the congregation lost an organ from the basement and miscellaneous items such as a TV, VCR and kitchen supplies, but he said he was relieved that the water only came up to the second step leading into the sanctuary.

Firemen volunteered to pump out most of the water from the basement, and he and a crew of workers were sweeping the remainder of the water out.

Clinger said he has already received offers of help with cleanup from other United Methodist pastors.

As Clinger and his crew worked away, neighbors living along nearby Sandusky and Main streets gathered in front of the church. Mike Ricksecker, a Main Street resident who is also a volunteer fireman and member of the Hancock Emergency Amateur Radio Service (HEARS), said HEARS personnel had offered assistance and asked what was needed.

As Jenera uses well water, residents will need bottled water for drinking and cooking, Ricksecker said. He said he’s also asked for hot water heaters and well pumps.

Many of the residents around the church have lost almost everything, Ricksecker said. Residents have already been told dumpsters will be brought in so they can dispose of items ruined by the water.

Contact Family Editor Margaret Dwiggins at: (419) 427-8477 margaretdwiggins@thecourier.com

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Wyandot officials await FEMA personnel

CAREY — Wyandot County officials are waiting for Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel to arrive in the county for an assessment of the flood damage as part of an effort to receive disaster relief, according to Roger Brodman, emergency management agency director for the county.

If approved for a disaster designation, property owners affected by the flooding will be eligible for some financial assistance.

County officials declared a state of emergency for the entire county Tuesday. Teams of FEMA personnel will canvass the area to look at the damage. They will also post fliers at grocery stores, libraries, churches and other public locations to let people know teams are in the area as well as utilizing radio and television stations to inform county residents about the situation through public service announcements.

Brodman reported at least 100 residences in Carey were flooded out, while between 250-300 residences countywide were affected.

Brad Batton, designated public information officer for Carey, said village officials met Wednesday morning to assess the current situation.

He said that besides the 100 homes that were flooded out, an additional 100 homes had to have power turned off as a precautionary measure against the rising water.

The Level 3 emergency declared Tuesday was lifted at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

As of mid-morning Wednesday, floodwaters were slowly receding in the village, but high water remained in some areas, including on South Vance Street around the Subway restaurant, he added.

Traffic was beginning to move through the village Wednesday on U.S. 23, which is a major truck route through town.

Batton reported streets in the village are being opened as the water continues to recede. A shelter set up at Ridge Chapel of the Nazarene for those affected by the flooding was expected to be closed sometime Wednesday.

Residents of Carey Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, who had been evacuated and transported to Blanchard Valley Hospital for temporary housing after the Monday storm, have been returned to the nursing home.

Brown Ditch and Spring Run, the two storm drainage ditches in the village which overflowed Tuesday, flooding nearby streets, were receding Wednesday.

The heavy rainfall hit Carey only Monday night, Batton added, which helped the water to recede more quickly. Other communities, including Findlay, were hit by a second downpour Tuesday which created more extensive flooding.

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Evacuees begin returning to flooded residences

By ERIC SCHAADT

Staff Writer

BLUFFTON -- The cleanup effort was under way Wednesday in Bluffton as residents returned to homes saturated from floodwaters.

Roadways in Bluffton were opened Wednesday except for Spring Street, which remained closed as a bridge there awaits inspection from engineers, according to the Bluffton Police Department.

Meanwhile, a bridge was reopened Wednesday on Main Street over Riley Creek. The creek had returned to its banks Wednesday, according to village officials.

The village was making arrangements to bring in large dumpsters to aid residents needing to get rid of soggy carpeting and other household materials damaged by floodwaters.

Those dumpsters will be placed throughout the village.

“The focus (Wednesday) had turned to cleanup,” Village Administrator Jamie Mehaffie said.

Due to the flood, the regular trash pickup in certain sections of the village, scheduled for Wednesday, was shifted to today, while Friday’s trash route has been shifted to Saturday this week.

Vance and Cherry street households sustained the brunt of Tuesday’s flood damage, village officials said, but other homes experienced flooded basements throughout the village.

About a dozen residents in the Vance and Cherry streets vicinity were evacuated to Marbeck Center on Tuesday.

Some of those residents were able to return to their houses Wednesday to assess damage, but village officials had no “hard numbers” on those who still might be at the center.

Meanwhile, work was under way to remove flood debris which collected on the fences at Harmon Field. Bluffton High School still hopes to pay football there Friday.

And cleanup was under way at various businesses, too.

“It’s going to take some time to clean up,” according to Bluffton Police Officer Chad Cupples. “Today (Wednesday) has been pretty much cleanup.”

Bluffton police received assistance Tuesday from the McComb Police Department and Allen County REACT to handle traffic and other matters.

Contact staff writer Eric Schaadt at: (419) 427-8414 ericschaadt@thecourier.com

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Electric company officials warn of danger from floods

With flooding comes a danger of electrocution, electric company officials warned Wednesday.

It's important to stay out of water if there are any electrical appliances plugged in nearby, said Shelly DiMattio, corporate communications consultant for AEP Ohio.

"Water conducts electricity, so the water can be electrically charged — and life-threatening," she said. "You just never want to take a chance."

And homeowners should not attempt to turn off their electricity themselves. Instead, they should call AEP Ohio's 800 number and ask to have their electricity turned off. That number is (800) 672-2231.

DiMattio said it's particularly dangerous to touch a circuit breaker that is wet or under water.

"That is absolutely not a good idea," she said.

Tom Konecny, marketing spokesman for Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative, said the best course of action is to shut things off before a flood occurs. Once the water is there, it's important to stay away from all things electrical, he said.

"You just don't want to touch anything," Konecny said.

DiMattio added that it's important to follow evacuation orders from public safety officials. When re-entering a house after an evacuation, proceed carefully and don't touch anything electrical while standing in water, she said.

She added that AEP Ohio customers in Ottawa may be without power until late today or early Friday.

"Right now the whole substation is under water," she said.

It isn't safe for AEP Ohio crews to get in to restore electricity, she said. The substation serves about 2,200 customers.

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Hancock fair will go on as scheduled

Despite this week's flooding, the Hancock County Fair will go on as scheduled next week, operations and facilities manager Dave Thomas said Wednesday.

Of course, the fairgrounds may need work between now and then.

"The fairgrounds are totally flooded at this time," Thomas said Wednesday. "I have not been able to get there since last night at eight o'clock."

He said he hasn't been able to assess the damage.

"We have water in the main office, which is clear up by Sandusky Street," he said.

But he said that so far, there are no plans to cancel or postpone any events.

"If we get another heavy rain, then we'll re-evaluate it at that time," Thomas said.

A group of volunteers is already on hand to help get the fairgrounds ready, he noted, and more — including youth in 4-H groups — will likely join in.

The fair is scheduled to take place from Aug. 29 -Sept. 3.

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