Friday, August 24th, 2007

Flooding claims 1st fatality
The flooding in Findlay and Hancock County claimed its first fatality on Thursday.
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Flood aid starts
As floodwaters from Tuesday's storm recede, Findlay and Hancock County residents will begin looking for help to repair the damage left behind.
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Federal, state officials pledge rebuilding help
Federal and state officials toured flood-ravaged Findlay Thursday and later pledged to help local leaders rebuild the city.
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This week's flood matches 1913 level, officials report
Findlay officials are now saying this was the worst flood on record.
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Flooding closes library
The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library is closed indefinitely after six feet of water flooded the lower level and parking garage, causing extensive interior damage, according to Sybil Galer, library director.
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Late move saves bus fleet
If desperate times call for desperate measures, then Findlay City School officials must have been in a full-scale panic on Tuesday when floodwaters covered Blanchard Avenue — leaving no way out for the district's 50-bus fleet housed in the bus garage at 1001 Blanchard Ave.
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River crests, power restored, but many areas remain flooded
OTTAWA — Portions of Ottawa and Glandorf were still flooded late Thursday, and all of Putnam County remained under a level 3 road emergency.
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TV correspondents converge on Findlay
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Flood trash pickup starts
Beginning this morning, Findlay city crews will be picking up flood-related trash to aid residents affected by the flood.
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Floods may bring disease
A flood doesn’t just mean a lot of water, say local experts, it also means the potential for disease even after the waters recede.
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Looters descend on flood-ravaged village
BLUFFTON — Some Bluffton residents who were cleaning up after this week's flood were hit with another problem: looters.
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Some roads still closed
The Findlay Police Department was reporting that the following streets were still closed because of flooding at 4 a.m. Friday:
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Findlay BMV office reopens
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Gas company advises caution
Columbia Gas of Ohio has advised customers in areas affected by flooding to call its 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-344-4077 if they notice a strong gas odor outside of their homes or detect any other evidence of a natural gas leak.
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Home renovation effort to benefit local soldier
A group of local soldiers, supporters and businessmen will be working this Sunday to renovate Shane Parsons' residence in Fostoria.
more >>
Local News

Flooding claims 1st fatality



The flooding in Findlay and Hancock County claimed its first fatality on Thursday.

A 92-year-old McComb man died after he was trapped by high water in his vehicle on Ohio 235, north of County Road 86 in Blanchard Township.

Gale Augsburger "attempted to get out of the vehicle and was in trouble in the water" at about 3 p.m., according to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office.

When deputies arrived, members of the Blanchard Township and McComb Fire Departments were attempting to resuscitate Augsburger. He was taken by Life Flight helicopter to Blanchard Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. There were no other passengers in the vehicle.

It was the first known fatality related to the flooding which began Tuesday in Hancock County.

More developments

In other major flood-related developments Thursday:

• The Blanchard River continued to recede, and several previously-flooded roads reopened in Findlay and Hancock County, including Findlay's Main Street.

• Three Findlay school buildings were damaged by Wednesday's flooding. (Separate story on page A3.)

• Several Hancock County government offices also were damaged and will have to move to other locations. Flood losses also included 91 of Hancock County's 270 new touch-screen voting machines.

• The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library is closed indefinitely after six feet of water flooded the lower level and parking garage, causing extensive interior damage. (Separate story on page A3.)

• Findlay Mayor Tony Iriti said he intends to request National Guard troops, to help clean up the mess left in the wake of the flooding, and to help patrol damaged neighborhoods.

• Findlay City Council voted to spend $500,000 to hire any contractors needed for the cleanup effort.

Main Street reopens

Findlay police removed barricades near the Main Street bridge at 7:20 p.m. Thursday, opening that roadway for the first time since water crept over Main on Wednesday.

Broad Avenue, on the west side of the city, reopened shortly after 7:30 p.m. Fishlock Avenue, on the east, was reopened Thursday afternoon.

Police Chief Bill Spraw said the police department would resume operating out of the Findlay Municipal Building at 9 p.m. Thursday after working from locations on each side of the city since Wednesday morning.

Police also planned to resume their regular 10-hour shifts at 7:30 a.m. today. Spraw had ordered mandatory 12-hour shifts after floodwaters entered Findlay earlier this week.

In Hancock County, County Roads 140 and 139 reopened Thursday. County Engineer Steve Wilson said the bridges on those roads seem to be alright.

The bridge on Township Road 128 also seems sound, he added, but the road coming up to it remained closed due to high water.

All county bridges have been checked now except for one on Township Road 123, Wilson said, which is still covered by high water.

As floodwaters receded Thursday, Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman lifted the level 3 emergency status, meaning motorists are allowed back on the roads.

National Guard coming

National Guard troops should be responding to Findlay in the next couple of days, according to Mayor Iriti. He intends to request troops to help clean up the mess left in the wake of the flooding and to help patrol damaged neighborhoods.

"In case anybody is even thinking about causing problems like looting and whatnot, it will be deterred," Iriti said during an emergency City Council meeting Thursday afternoon.

Council voted 6-0 to spend $500,000 to hire any contractors needed for the cleanup effort.

Because Gov. Ted Strickland has declared Findlay a disaster area, the city has access to state equipment such as street sweepers and garbage trucks, Iriti said.

Trash pickup

Starting today, the city will be running five crews of garbage trucks around the clock to pick up debris, soiled carpet, drywall, furniture, or anything else destroyed by the flooding.

Flood trash should not include any hazardous materials such as oil or fuel.

Electronics should be separated from other flood debris because they will be diverted from the landfill to Litter Landing recycling center.

Findlay Service Director Mike Sobczyk requested that residents and shop owners put only flood-related items on the curb for collection.

"We're not collecting garbage," he said.

The city also is asking anyone with unneeded sandbags to place them on the curb for collection rather than simply throwing them away.

City water OK

Sobczyk also emphasized that despite persistent rumors, the city's water supply is fine. "Our water is safe, it has always been safe," he said.

The flooding would have had to rise another two feet before the city's drinking water supply would have been in any danger.

Damage assessment

City administration leaders will begin touring city-owned facilities with an architect and a construction supervisor to determine the extent of the flooding damage.

"The mayor will then have to decide whether to repair them or tear them down," City Auditor Robert Cole Sprague said Thursday.

Most city-owned facilities appear to have come through pretty well, Iriti said. But the pumps at the city pool were destroyed, effectively ending the swimming season there.

Health office moved

The city health department took on quite a bit of water, too. Operations have been moved to Room 306 of the municipal building, located at 318 Dorney Plaza. All health department phone lines have been forwarded to the city building.

The environmental health and the plumbing divisions are running at full force. The nursing division has temporarily suspended its regularly scheduled immunization clinics.

Tuberculosis testing will resume Tuesday from 3-4:30 p.m. For more information about immunizations, or for other questions, call 419-424-7105.

There is a two-day turn-around time for birth and death certificates. Requests for birth and death certificates must be filed in person at the temporary location in the municipal building.

Dangers remain

Mayor Iriti encouraged everyone to stay clear of any remaining pools of high water as they recede. "You don't know what is in floodwater," Iriti said.

And Hancock County officials warned that motorists should not go around barricades where bridges are closed, even if they don't see any high water, because the bridge may be structurally unsound.

The Findlay Fire Department has curtailed its water rescue efforts, but continues to maintain a command center at the high school.

"We're still responding to gas leaks, things like that," a spokeswoman for the fire department said Thursday afternoon.

Findlay Fire Chief Tom Lonyo is warning people to be on the lookout for downed power lines or other dangers. Utility customers can call the following numbers for help: Columbia Gas at 800-344-4077; American Electric Power at 800-672-2231; and Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative at 800-445-4840.

County flood damage

Hancock County government suffered extensive flood damage.

Among the losses are 91 of the county's 270 new touch-screen voting machines, Board of Elections Director Jody O'Brien announced Thursday.

"Ninety-one voting machines were under water," she said. "We have to have them for the (November) election. I don't know what to do about that."

The Hancock County Courthouse didn't sustain much flood damage, but other county buildings did.

Commissioner Ed Ingold said that county buildings that sustained the worst damage included the media building on West Main Cross Street, which houses the Adult Probation Offices, Hancock County Board of Elections, Hancock County Health Department, CASA and Hancock County Veterans Services agency; and the Hancock County Commissioners' office on South Main Street.

"There was a foot of water in (the media building)," Ingold said.

Water-filled basements and first floors of other county offices ruined many county records, destroyed some computers and made several offices impossible to work in, officials said.

Officials were beginning to tally the damage Thursday.

"Although we're not up and ready yet, we're beginning to limp," Ingold said.

Insurance representatives are going to be touring the county buildings and a damage assessment will be under way as soon as possible.

Ingold also said that if the disaster qualifies for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, FEMA representatives are likely to be arriving in about 10 days.

Meanwhile, County Sheriff Michael Heldman said the felons that were evacuated from the county jail to Williams County will be back today.

County offices reopen

Hancock County elected officials have decided that several county offices will be able to open today, including offices for the treasurer, engineer, auditor, clerk of courts title/legal, recorder and prosecutor.

Hancock County Common Pleas Court general division, domestic relations and adult probation also will be open.

Some of the offices that were badly damaged by the flood will temporarily go to other locations:

• The Hancock County Veterans Services offices will be moving to the Hancock County Bureau of Motor Vehicles building on County Road 140.

• Hancock County Adult Probation offices will be moving to the grand jury meeting room in the courthouse.

• The county health department will be moving to offices in the same building as the Hancock County prosecutor's office, next to the library.

• CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) will be moving to the Hancock County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD) facilities on Sandusky Street.

• The Hancock Board of Elections will be moving to the Hancock County Agricultural Center on County Road 140 just for one day — Monday — to collect petitions for candidates for the November elections. Petitions will be due there by 4 p.m.

After Monday, it's undecided where the elections board will go.

Ingold said the county commissioners are considering moving to the Hancock Regional Planning Commission offices in the Findlay Municipal Building.

Courier reporter Michelle Reiter contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer John Graber at:

(419) 427-8417

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Flood aid starts



As floodwaters from Tuesday's storm recede, Findlay and Hancock County residents will begin looking for help to repair the damage left behind.

There are several places to turn.

The Hancock County chapter of the American Red Cross is urging anyone affected by the flooding to register with the agency in order to be eligible for assistance — regardless of whether they are staying at the Red Cross shelter.

Food, clothing, and cleaning kits are available, and case workers will begin handling financial assistance claims today. Money will be available on disposable debit cards for flood victims.

To register, victims should go to the Cube, 3430 N. Main St. The amount of the assistance has not yet been established, but it will vary according to need and family size.

People must be registered with the Red Cross before they can receive any assistance, though.

"If we don't know you need help, how can we help you?" said Ron Rooker, marketing director for Safety and Health Services, Hancock County Chapter.

Meanwhile, Red Cross crews ­­— each consisting of a case worker, a damage assessment volunteer and a mental health worker — will begin heading into flood-damaged neighborhoods today, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Lynn Cook.

The Red Cross also is sending emergency response vehicles with food and cleaning supplies into Arlington and Jenera, which were heavily damaged by flooding.

Gov. Ted Strickland and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff toured the Red Cross shelter at the Cube on Thursday, and American Red Cross National President Mark Everson will be in Findlay today.

The Red Cross is considering this a national emergency and is bringing in volunteers from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Flood victims also will be eligible for state aid. Residents of counties declared a disaster area by Gov. Strickland, including Hancock County, are eligible for financial assistance through the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Besides Hancock, those counties include Putnam, Allen, Hardin, Richland, Van Wert, Wyandot and Crawford.

Families in those counties are eligible for up to $1,500, while the elderly and disabled are eligible for up to $750 per person, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services spokesman Dennis Evans said.

To apply for that assistance, residents should contact their local county office of Jobs and Family Services. In Hancock County, that is located at 7814 County Road 140, Findlay. The phone number is 419-422-0182.

People also should contact their individual insurance companies, Cook of the Red Cross said. "That should be the first thing people do, contact their insurance," she said.

Federal aid for flood victims is also likely to be available, depending on damage assessments.

Contact staff writer John Graber at:

(419) 427-8417

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Federal, state officials pledge rebuilding help



Federal and state officials toured flood-ravaged Findlay Thursday and later pledged to help local leaders rebuild the city.

Among those visiting the city were Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison.

Chertoff and Paulison were joined by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who made his second trip to Findlay in as many days.

The three men, and other elected officials, were given a police-escorted tour of the heavily damaged residential area south of Sixth Street and the downtown business district.

The motorcade stopped at the intersection of Main and Center streets, where they observed water damage at All Around Uniforms, 225 N. Main St., one of many downtown businesses hit by Blanchard River floodwaters.

Later Thursday, officials visited with evacuees, Red Cross workers and volunteers at the Cube, where a relief center was opened Wednesday for those displaced by the high water.

Also in attendance were U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; U.S. representatives Jim Jordan, R-Urbana; Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo; Paul Gillmor, R-Tiffin; and State Sen. Steve Buehrer, R-Delta.

The politicians were from the nine counties that Strickland declared as emergency disaster areas earlier this week.

During a press conference, Chertoff said the destruction he saw in Findlay was not unlike that generated by hurricanes. He said the federal government was poised with the state to help local businesses and residents in their recovery efforts.

"The storm that hit this community and other parts of the Midwest didn't have a name, but the devastation is comparable to what we've seen with other infamous storms in other parts of the country," he said.

Chertoff praised the efforts of the local Red Cross, community leaders and all the volunteers who are providing assistance to people who were "literally caught by surprise" by the rapidly rising water.

He said Homeland Security will be working in coming days and weeks with FEMA and state agencies to assess the flood damage and process claims and requests for federal assistance. Ultimately, Chertoff said, Homeland Security and FEMA will ask President Bush for funding to help those businesses and residents affected by the flooding.

"We are going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with you, every step of the way as this community gets rebuilt," he said.

Paulison, who reports directly to Chertoff, said FEMA can offer individual assistance to homeowners who are either underinsured or have no insurance at all, and public assistance to city and county governments if it is determined that infrastructure damage has occurred.

"We're going to work on the assessments and process them very quickly and make sure we have enough people on the ground to get the job done," he said, noting that a team from New York would be brought in to do damage assessments.

Strickland, who had flown over the Findlay floodwaters and also stopped at the Cube shelter on Wednesday, said Thursday he was impressed with the way the community had responded to the flood.

"Mother Nature was not kind to us," he said. "But anytime you get 8 or 9 inches of rain in a 24-hour period it is likely there is going to be a problem."

The governor predicted Findlay will bounce back from this week's flood stronger than ever.

"These are trying times," he said. "These are times we need to circle the wagons so to speak. I believe the community here has responded well. What is happening here is inspiring."

Strickland said the state will start to assess the damage the flood caused to small businesses, homeowners and infrastructure, and then seek the appropriate level of federal assistance.

"We will be seeking the help we need and deserve from Uncle Sam," he said. "The state will continue to do whatever it can to provide needed relief."

But not everyone at the Cube on Thursday was convinced relief will come to those who need it the most.

Mark Warner, 900 S. Blanchard St., who was among the hundreds displaced by this week's flood and earlier ones this year, said he hopes help is on the way, but said he would "wait and see" if leaders make good on their promises.

"Every time it floods, it drives us out," he said after the press conference. "It has a huge economic impact every time."

Earlier, Warner urged Strickland to seek federal funding for the purchase of the homes of people who "are stuck" in the flood plain because no one will buy their homes after repeated floods.

Strickland, in response to Warner's inquiry, said communities that he served while in Congress had flood mitigation programs that allowed people to leave homes that were susceptible to flooding.

U.S. Rep. Kaptur, D-Toledo, added that there are federal mitigation funding programs, and that she would work with other Ohio representatives to see if those resources could be made more broadly available to this area.

Kaptur also said she believes more needs to be done to prevent future flooding. She said flooding is a regional issue because when the Blanchard and Auglaize rivers flood, the waters end up in the Maumee River and "Toledo gets washed out."

She was particularly critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday, saying they were "noticeably absent" from the gathering at the Cube, but suggested they need to be included in the long-term solution to flooding in this area.

"They have been dragging their heels for years on the need to address flooding in this entire watershed," Kaptur said. "I think it is one of the reasons that the damage was so severe this time."

Strickland said he shared Kaptur's frustration about the Army Corps and said he would work to get them involved in future discussions about Ohio flooding.

Contact staff writer J. Steven Dillon at:

(419) 427-8423

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This week's flood matches 1913 level, officials report



Findlay officials are now saying this was the worst flood on record.

They are adopting the National Weather Service's estimate that the river crested at 18.5 feet — or 7.5 feet above flood stage — which matches the record level of the infamous 1913 flood. The 1913 flood level actually is an estimate; there were no precise measurements taken then.

The weather service said the river crested Wednesday afternoon at 18.5 feet, then began slowly receding. Flood stage is 11 feet. The river level was at 14.6 feet at 9 p.m. Thursday and falling. The river was expected to go below flood stage at about 8 a.m. today.

Findlay wasn't hit by any additional rain Wednesday night, but city officials aren't taking anything for granted. "They say with all this moisture and heat a shower could hit at any time," Findlay Service Director Mike Sobczyk said Thursday.

Contact staff writer John Graber at:

(419) 427-8417

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Flooding closes library


Staff Writer

The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library is closed indefinitely after six feet of water flooded the lower level and parking garage, causing extensive interior damage, according to Sybil Galer, library director.

Anyone with library materials should hold onto those items and not try to return them until the facility reopens, she added, and any fines incurred by patrons during the closing period will be forgiven.

"The library is in recovery," said Galer, who was contacted at home Thursday afternoon while preparing to return to the facility with food for workers at the site.

"The library won't open for a week, at least," she said, remaining closed "until further notice, to make the necessary repairs."

She said Dick Taylor, facilities manager, kept a close watch on the river, and on Tuesday had some employees carry up books and other materials located on the lower level to the upper level of the facility. As a result, those items were spared damage.

However, furniture and office supplies that were located in the lower level will have to be replaced. Drywall throughout the area will also have to be replaced because of the damage.

Discarded books stored on the lower level and materials in the Book Cellar, a used book and material area operated by Friends of the Library, were a total loss. With limited time to move materials, those items weren't considered essential items, she said.

Barb Lindamood, manager of the Book Cellar said she hoped the library board and Friends of the Library board will agree to reopen the facility. However, it will take some time to re-establish the site with new furniture, supplies, shelving and a display case. Once the area is ready, it would then take some time to restock the facility, most likely with donations from the community. No donations are being accepted now.

The two boards "must decide if it's a service they want to provide," she said. "If I'm allowed, I really badly want to reopen," she said.

However, Galer said, the major concern is for the heating, ventilating and cooling mechanical equipment which is also located in the damaged area. Once the water is removed, the condition of those items will be assessed by contractors, she said.

Tri-Weh Interior Construction and Remediation, a Cincinnati-based company, had personnel at the site Thursday working on water removal.

There is also concern for some materials on the main floor of the facility, she added, because of the high humidity levels created by all the moisture.

Future plans to move the library to another downtown location, possibly on North Cory Street, haven't been finalized. With the latest damage, it's unclear whether that would be a good idea.

"We don't want to trade one problem for another," she said, about a North Cory Street location since that area also suffers from flooding problems.

Meanwhile, any damage to the Arlington branch library has not been determined at this point, Galer said, as employees have been concentrating on the main branch.

"They evacuated earlier (than the main branch)," she said, since the flooding hit the southern end of the county first. "I have no idea at this point" (the extent of any damage).

If water got into the facility, however, there probably is some damage that will need to be repaired, she said.

Contact Staff Writer Jim Maurer at:

(419) 427-8420

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Late move saves bus fleet


Staff Writer

If desperate times call for desperate measures, then Findlay City School officials must have been in a full-scale panic on Tuesday when floodwaters covered Blanchard Avenue — leaving no way out for the district's 50-bus fleet housed in the bus garage at 1001 Blanchard Ave.

"We were unable to get the buses out due to all the flooding on Blanchard, so we just pulled them all onto high ground. At one point, they looked like an island unto themselves," said Superintendent Dean Wittwer, in an interview with the Courier on Thursday.

It worked. While the buses remained relatively dry, the bus garage was invaded by floodwaters.

The buses were still being inspected on Thursday, but Wittwer said there was very little damage. In fact, several Findlay City School buses, carrying the Trojan Varsity Football Team and marching band headed to Bowling Green Thursday evening for the season opener.

"The kids have been cooped up for two days and they really wanted to go. They want to have fun," Wittwer said.

While the school district appears to have lucked out with the bus fleet, it is a different story with Central Middle School, 200 W. Main Cross St. The building had as much as 5 feet of water on its basement floor, which houses the district's computer servers, phone system and administrative offices, including those of the superintendent and treasurer.

Both Lincoln Elementary School, 200 W. Lincoln St., and Washington Intermediate School, 701 N. Main St., had minor basement flooding.

On Thursday, teams of district maintenance and custodial workers, were in the buildings. The school district has also hired professional cleaners to help cut and remove carpeting, clean areas, and treat the buildings to stop mold.

"That's happening tonight," Wittwer said on Thursday.

The technology crew used fans to dry out computers in Central, and expected to have the system back on-line and an accessible network by late Thursday.

It's good progress, considering the only way into Central Middle School on Wednesday was by boat.

Wittwer commended the workers for their dedication, and said he was confident that the schools would be ready for the opening day on Sept. 4.

Teacher convocation day, which is scheduled for Monday, is still on track; however, Wittwer said it will most likely have to be held at Findlay High School. The convocation was going to be held in Central Auditorium.

Several building orientations will also be rescheduled in coming days.

He said district administration will continue to work out of Findlay High School, their homes or "other places where we have access to the Internet and the network" until it is safe for staff members to return to Central Middle School.

Wittwer said the school district was also working throughout the flood to help in the community.

Findlay High School served as a command center for emergency responders in the city on Wednesday, and teams of students from the high school were organized to help with the evacuation shelter at The Cube.

He also thank the Liberty-Benton School District for sending in its buses to help with evacuations.

"People have just rallied," Wittwer said. "I really have to commend our staff and the police, fire and EMS people that house themselves at the high school. Everyone has been very patient in allowing us to get our jobs done."

Contact staff writer Denise Grant at:

(419) 427-8412

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River crests, power restored, but many areas remain flooded


Staff Writer

OTTAWA — Portions of Ottawa and Glandorf were still flooded late Thursday, and all of Putnam County remained under a level 3 road emergency.

The Blanchard River crested between noon and 2 p.m. Thursday in Putnam County, with the crest being officially declared at 5 p.m.

The river reached 31.71 feet. That's short of the record flood crest of 33.3 feet set on March 13, 1913. It had dropped to 31.36 feet by 4:45 p.m. Flood stage is 23 feet.

Putnam County Commissioner John Love, who was serving as information officer for the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency, said the river wasn't showing any signs of backing down late Thursday.

But electricity had been restored to most of Ottawa and Glandorf. Both villages, about 2,000 residences, lost power Wednesday afternoon when floodwaters submerged an American Electric Power substation. AEP was producing power Thursday with portable generators.

About 600 Glandorf customers remained without power Thursday night. For them, the loss of electrical power made for one miserable day. The temperature was pushing 100 degrees on Thursday, with high humidity.

Residents were being encouraged to report to a shelter if they needed relief from the heat. As of late Thursday, there were 66 people being housed at three shelters operating in Putnam County.

There were no reports of flood-related accidents or injuries.

A shelter being housed at Trinity United Lutheran Church had to be closed when floodwaters started approaching the church Thursday afternoon. The church sits at the corner of Main and Pratt streets in Ottawa. The shelter was moved to the Ottawa Senior Center.

A second shelter was being operated at the Scout House in Ottawa Park.

A third shelter was opened at the Miller City Sportsman Club to house residents of Putnam's VOCA Home, the county's residence for adults with developmental disabilities. A total of 24 people were evacuated from the home Thursday afternoon. The VOCA Home is located on Ohio 15, just north of Ottawa.

Animal assistance

The Northwest Ohio Disaster Animal Response Team also arrived in Putnam County Thursday afternoon to provide aid to animals that had been left at residences. Those requesting animal rescue should call 419-538-7006.

Information about the river's level and road closings are also available on this public service phone.

Love said 43 cats were found in one residence alone.

"They are going to have their work cut out for them," he said.

Heavy damage

With evacuations nearly complete, Love felt that response efforts were going well, even if it is a "sickening" situation.

Ottawa's entire business district, in the village's downtown area, has been severely damaged, as have several homes in both villages.

Ottawa began experiencing heavy flooding Wednesday afternoon.

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 the counties eligible for federal help.

Emergency responders in Putnam County were already planning for cleanup efforts to begin.

A dump truck is now stationed at the Glandorf Tile Mill for Glandorf residents to dispose of soiled food and damaged furniture and carpet.

Additional information is available on the Web at and

Closed roads

The following roadways remained closed as of the Courier's press time late Thursday:


U.S. 224 from Ohio 115 to Ohio 65.

Ohio 115 from U.S. 224 to Ohio 12.

Ohio 65 from Ohio 12 to Ohio 15.

Ohio 114 from U.S. 224 to Ohio 694.

Ohio 634 from Ohio 114 to Ohio 613.

Ohio 634 from Cloverdale to Dupont.


Road M from Ohio 65 to Road 8M.

Road 16-O from Ohio 115 to Road P.

Road P from Ohio 115 to Road 16-O.

Road M from 10-L to Road 11.

Road R from Road 16-O to Ohio 115.

All of Old Ohio 224.

Road 2 from Road A to Road C.

Road 1 from U.S. 224 to Road M.

Road 7 from U.S. 224 to Old 224.

Road M between Road 2 and Road 3.

Road I.

Road J.

Road L from Road 6 to 5-L.

Road L-2 along the river.

Road L-1 along the river.

Road K-1 along the river.

Road 1-K.

Road K-3.

Road I-14 from Road 15 to Ohio 115.

Road I-17 from Ohio 115 to Road 19.

Road I-17 from Road 18 to Road 19.

Road H-13 from Ohio 15 and Ohio 115.

Road M-17 from Road 19 and Road 22K.

Road 22-K from Road N to Road 21.

Road Q from Road 19 to Road 20.

Road D from Ohio 15 to Road 20.

Road C from Road 22 to Road 23.

Road 10-L from Road M to Road 10-K.

Road 11 from Glandorf to Ohio 15.

Road I-9.

Road H-11.

Road 19 from B-13 to Road B.

Road H-24 from Road 24 to Road 25.

Road I-23 from Ohio 634 to Road 24.

Road N from Road 3 to Road 4.

Road 5-N along the river.

Road Q west of Ohio 115.

Road 14 from Road M-13 to Road Q.

Road O from Road 13 to Road 14.

Road 14 L from Road M-10 to Road O.

Road M-10 from U.S. 224 to Road 13.

Road M from Ohio 114 to Road 18.

Road Q from Road 16-O to Ohio 115.

Road M-17 from U.S. 224 to Road 19.

Road B from Road 1 to Road 2.

Contact staff writer Denise Grant at:

(419) 427-8412

Back To Headlines

TV correspondents converge on Findlay


Family editor

This week, Findlay, Ohio is not known as the home of Ben Roethlisberger, the Pillsbury Bake-Off winner or Marathon Oil Co. Since water began overflowing the banks of the Blanchard River and area creeks, people worldwide know Findlay as a community suffering a disaster of historic proportions.

Beginning Wednesday, correspondents from all the major news networks began arriving in Findlay for live reports.

On Wednesday, ABC led off its "World News" 6:30 p.m. newscast with a live report from Findlay. "The CBS Evening News" featured Findlay as the second story in its nightly news broadcast. Wednesday's edition of the New York Times also mentioned Findlay in a story on flooding occurring throughout the country.

On Thursday, ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" shows both carried live reports, as did the Weather Channel, CBS and CNN.

Jeff Morrow, an on-camera meteorologist for the Weather Channel, took up position on the Main Street bridge where his cameraman was able to get a good view of the water of the Blanchard River rushing by, no longer at flood stage but still just inches from the bottom of the bridge.

Morrow said he would be filing live reports to the network throughout the day and would be in town at least through Thursday night.

Morrow said the Weather Channel decided to dispatch a reporter and camera crew to Findlay after learning that the flooding here was, if not at record breaking levels, close to record breaking levels. He said it was also of interest to the network to show viewers what "that amount of rain in a short period of time can do. We're kind of setting the stage ... this isn't the only place this is happening, it's a pattern."

As Morrow was filing his report, a large U.S. Coast Guard air boat was launched into the floodwater remaining on Main Street.

While Morrow reported from the Main Street bridge, most other network news crews had set up shop across the north end of the bridge in the Rite Aid parking lot.

Sam Champion, weather editor for the ABC network and on-air weather reporter for "Good Morning America," came to Findlay directly from Cancun, Mexico, where he had been reporting on Hurricane Dean.

With so much devastating weather occurring across the country, Champion said it was not an easy decision to choose which city "Good Morning America" would report from. Although he was aware that ABC had also sent in crews for its nightly news broadcast, he said the crews were not working together in Findlay.

Since Champion's on-site reporting is usually for the purpose of covering extreme weather situations, he often encounters people who have suffered heartbreaking loss. But, he said, he is always heartened by how warmly he is greeted from town to town.

"When we get to a place, it's usually the worst experience these people have ever been in," he said "And yet they're coming up to us and asking us how we're doing and giving us coffee. It's amazing how giving and gracious they are."

Champion said that almost always he is invited to come back to town when things are better to see a town at its very best instead of at its worst moment.

Hoss Warner, who works with First Call Uplinks, based out of Youngstown, had also set up camera equipment on the north end of the bridge. He said he and a camera crew had been dispatched by CNN to get video footage of flooded Main Street.

"This shot is going out to CNN network news, Headline News and every CNN affiliate in America," Warner said.

Cynthia Bowers, a correspondent with CBS News, was one of many network reporters to interview Findlay Mayor Tony Iriti. By 10 a.m. Thursday, Iriti had granted interviews to CNN, MSNBC, WTOL, CBS and NBC, and he was on his way across the bridge to be interviewed by Morrow and the crew from the Weather Channel.

Bowers said the situation in Findlay was "worse than I thought it would be. When you go by boat into some of these neighborhoods you see how many houses are actually in water."

Although the sun was shining on Thursday and the floodwaters were receding, Jeff Ranieri, a meteorologist for, in Findlay to report for the "Today" show and MSNBC, said Findlay residents have no cause to relax.

According to Ranieri, there's still a chance that strong storms in the upper Midwest this weekend could trigger more flooding along the Blanchard River. Or, if heavy rain were to fall in a town north of Findlay, downstream flooding could occur and cause flash floods in the Findlay area, even if the sun is shining, Ranieri said.

"I definitely think people should stay on alert," he said. "If we get thunderstorms, the ground is already so saturated that any more rain will lead to more flooding."

Contact family editor Margaret Dwiggins:

(419) 427-8477

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Flood trash pickup starts

Beginning this morning, Findlay city crews will be picking up flood-related trash to aid residents affected by the flood.

Residents are being asked to place all flood-related trash at the curb. This trash should not include any hazardous materials such as oil or fuel.

Flood-damaged electronics should be put at the curb separately.

Other, non-flood trash will not be collected by city crews. And crews will not come onto personal property to retrieve flood trash.

The city is not preventing private haulers from collecting trash.

Sandbags may also be placed at the curb for pickup by the city.

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Floods may bring disease



A flood doesn’t just mean a lot of water, say local experts, it also means the potential for disease even after the waters recede.

As people begin the process of cleaning up houses and offices, they may want to keep a few details in mind. For example: If there is any water remaining, don’t play in it, walk in it or wade in it, said Colleen Abrams, the infection control coordinator at Blanchard Valley Health System (BVHS).

It could still be an electrical hazard, she said, and the water also may be contaminated or contain debris.

Watch for mold

As people begin to clean up the soggy mess, one of the other concerns is mold, and there’s likely to be a lot of that.

Mold can irritate allergies in people, and it can make people with compromised immune systems sick, Abrams said. People with cancer, AIDS or someone who has had an organ transplant, among other immunity disorders, are at extra risk from mold.

Whether a house has mold should be easy enough to spot.

“You can recognize mold by sight and smell,” she said.

That choking, musty odor inside waterlogged buildings likely indicates the presence of mold and mildew.

Keeping clean

She also warned people to be careful of cuts and open wounds, even if they received the injury before the flood. She said people should wash their hands with soap and water after cleaning flooded areas.

Those who have been in the floodwaters should also consider getting a tetanus shot, if their shots are not up to date, she added.

Shots are available at Physicians Plus, the Red Cross shelter at the Cube, and at Blanchard Valley Hospital’s emergency room, she said, but the shots are not free.

Water safety

Dr. Greg Arnette, Hancock County health commissioner, said that Findlay water is safe to drink, but well water might be contaminated if floodwater found its way into wells.

“If water didn’t get into wells, fine,” he said. “But if well water was compromised (precautions must be taken).”

Those precautions include disinfecting a water well, using bottled water that has not been exposed to floodwaters for drinking, bathing and other household uses, or boiling water to make it safe.

If water can’t be boiled, it can be disinfected with household bleach, by adding eight drops of regular, unscented household bleach to each gallon of water, stirring it well and letting it stand for half an hour before using it.

Wells that have been flooded should be tested and disinfected. For more information, go to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site at

Both the Findlay City and Hancock County Health departments coordinated with Blanchard Valley Health System on Thursday to inform residents of the risk posed by the contaminated floodwaters currently in the area.

They offered the following tips, borrowed from the CDC Flood Emergency Preparedness & Response Web page, which can be viewed at

• Floodwaters may contain fecal matter from overflowing sewage systems, as well as agricultural and industrial byproducts.

• Parents are advised to keep children and pets out of floodwater areas. Be sure to wash children’s hands frequently and do not allow them to play with toys that may have been contaminated by floodwaters.

• Even though making skin contact with floodwaters does not pose a serious health risk by itself, there is a risk of disease from eating or drinking anything that may have come into contact with floodwaters.

• Residents with open cuts or sores that have been exposed to floodwaters are advised to keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap to control infections. If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

Floodwater cleanup

The CDC Web site also offers tips for floodwater cleanup:

• Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

• Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.

• Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).

• Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or floodwaters.

• Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

• Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.

• After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and water. Use water that has been boiled for one minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).

• Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (with solution of one-eighth teaspoon of household bleach per one gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of one-quarter teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

• Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

• Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your on-site wastewater system has been professionally inspected and serviced.

• Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

Re-entering home

Recommended steps to take when you first re-enter your flooded home include:

• If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning.

• If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, call an electrician to turn it off. Never turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.

• Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.

• If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for awhile (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.

• If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, presume your home has been contaminated with mold.

• If your home has been flooded, it also may be contaminated with sewage.

Contact Staff Writer Michelle Reiter at: (419) 427-8497

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Looters descend on flood-ravaged village


Staff Writer

BLUFFTON — Some Bluffton residents who were cleaning up after this week's flood were hit with another problem: looters.

Thieves representing themselves as repairmen or adjusters apparently have struck at least three households in Bluffton, Police Chief Rick Skilliter said Thursday.

A list of stolen items had yet to be compiled, but the thieves have taken copper piping from one residence.

Stepped-up police patrols have been ordered in the neighborhoods of Cherry, Vance and Railroad streets, the police chief said.

"I was appalled. Absolutely appalled," Skilliter said.

The suspects may have been traveling in a brown truck in the Cherry Street area.

Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call Bluffton police at 419-358-2961.

In other flood matters, Chief Skilliter has counted 12 house trailers and two homes that have been declared uninhabitable on Cherry and Vance streets.

He said he will investigate houses on Railroad Street today.

Arrangements are being made with Findlay's Allied Waste to place dumpsters in the village to collect storm debris.

The Marbeck Center at Bluffton University, which served as a shelter for flood victims, was closed after its last evacuee left. Before it closed, an impromptu birthday party was thrown for one visitor who turned 71.

The Red Cross has placed 11 Bluffton area families in hotels.

The university sustained some damage after floodwaters spilled into some buildings. However, the campus has been cleaned and is ready for classes to start Monday.

The Shoker Science Center and Berky Hall experienced minor interior water damage.

University science professor Mike Edmiston estimated the campus flood level was just short of the 1981 level.

This week the men's soccer team helped move storage items in Ramseyer Hall to higher ground, while football players with sandbags blocked water from rushing into the science building.

Bags also were stacked in front of Centennial Hall as water came within 10 yards of the entrance.

"We are all grateful that the damage was not much more worse — the campus community gets the credit for that," university President James Harder said in a written statement.

University student-athletes also provided assistance to the cleanup effort in the village.


In Arlington, dumpsters were being filled with debris almost as soon as they were set in place, Mayor Ed Solt said.

A 30-foot dumpster outside the village IGA on Wednesday was filled within 30 minutes; another dumpster outside Arlington School was packed within 45 minutes Thursday morning.

Furniture and ruined carpeting were placed in the dumpsters.

Solt added that the village will set up a village-wide, curbside debris cleanup with J&N from Ada.

The mayor complimented his residents during this ordeal.

"I've never been more proud of this community in my life," Solt said. "A lot of neighbors were helping neighbors."

Arlington Fire Chief Al Latta estimated that 75 percent of the village was flooded at one point.

Roadways are dry now, but he estimated that 37 inches of water stood outside Arlington School. No water reached the school building, which served as an evacuation center.

On Thursday, the cleanup effort continued.

"It's going to take a while," Chief Latta said.

"Nobody got hurt in the deal. That's all that matters."

Water and Sewer Superintendent Rick Monday on Thursday reassured Arlington residents their drinking water was "100 percent safe."

Also, the Park Street bridge at the village park was deemed to be safe and passable, Monday said. The bridge sustained asphalt damage.

But another damaged bridge at the southern edge of the park, off Liberty Street, was closed after being damaged.

Village officials plan to meet with county officials to determine if any disaster relief aid is available.

Contact staff writer Eric Schaadt at:

(419) 427-8414

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Some roads still closed

The Findlay Police Department was reporting that the following streets were still closed because of flooding at 4 a.m. Friday:

• East Main Cross Street from Osborn to 300 block

• Liberty Street from Apple Alley to river

• Marshall Street from Washington Street to cemetery

• Stanford Parkway from Westfield Drive to river

• Howard Street from Broad Avenue west to Wal-Mart entrance

• County Road 236 from Heatherwood to Ohio 568

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Findlay BMV office reopens

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Deputy Registrar has announced that the Hancock County BMV, 8210 County Road 140 in Findlay, reopened Thursday.

The Putnam County BMV, 275 N. Hickory St. in Ottawa, remains closed until further notice.

Both locations were closed Wednesday due to flood water, power outages and emergency travel restrictions.

Water, food needed at shelter

The American Red Cross is accepting donations of bottled water and food at the Cube, 3430 N. Main St. Area residents can safely access the Cube by traveling on County Road 99 to North Main Street, and turning south onto Main.

Election deadline moved to Monday

The filing deadline for candidates who plan to run in the November general election has been postponed until Monday because of flooding.

Petitions will be due at the Hancock County Board of Elections' temporary location — the Hancock County Agricultural Center on County Road 140 — by 4 p.m. Monday.

Drinking water made available

Free drinking water will be available on Saturday to Hancock County residents who are cleaning up their businesses and homes.

First Assembly of God, 124 Ash Ave., will have 5,000 gallons of bottled water to give out from noon-4 p.m.

The water is being provided by Operation Outreach and World Harvest Church, and will be brought in to the First Assembly of God church by truck. Residents who want water are asked to pull cars into the church from Prospect Street.

For more information, call the church at (419) 422-3019.

Local Habitat event canceled

Due to recent flooding, the Findlay/Hancock County Habitat for Humanity has canceled a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for Saturday at the Apostle Building on Breckenridge Road.

No reschedule date has been set.

Flooding cancels benefit concert

CAREY — A memorial and benefit concert for Rachelle Rice and Dashelle Lynch, victims of the June 26 apartment fire in Carey, has been postponed due to the flooding.

The concert, originally scheduled for Saturday will be rescheduled, but a date has not been set.

Nashville recording artist and Ohio native Gene Bowshier had been slated to perform at the concert, and money raised was to be included in a fire victims' fund that will be equally divided to cover medical and funeral expenses.

Both Rice and Lynch sustained extensive burns after being rescued from the burning apartment complex in downtown Carey on June 26. Lynch died at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo several weeks after the fire and Rice remains in the hospital's care.

Bingo canceled

ARLINGTON —The Arlington VFW will not have bingo today or Aug. 31 because of high water.

Events cancelled, rescheduled

The following high school football games set for tonight have been rescheduled for Saturday night: Arlington at Riverdale, Columbus Grove at Pandora-Gilboa, Liberty-Benton at Mohawk, all at 7 p.m.; and Ottawa-Glandorf at Fostoria, 7:30 p.m.

Hancock County Fairgrounds' chicken barbecue fund-raiser: scheduled for Thursday, rescheduled for Sept. 13. All tickets will be honored at that time.

The Hancock Historical Museum's Back Street Festival: scheduled for Saturday, canceled.

United Way of Hancock County: Block Party campaign kickoff, scheduled for Friday, rescheduled TBA.

School Prayer Walk scheduled for Saturday: canceled. Tonight's SPW meeting at St. Mark's DOCK has been canceled as well.

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Gas company advises caution

Columbia Gas of Ohio has advised customers in areas affected by flooding to call its 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-344-4077 if they notice a strong gas odor outside of their homes or detect any other evidence of a natural gas leak.

Floodwaters may have shifted homes and caused stresses to the gas piping, possibly resulting in a natural gas leak. The company advises anyone smelling the odor of gas indoors to leave immediately and call the hotline.

Customers are cautioned against using a cell phone in the house — use it away from the house or go to a neighbor's house to make the call.

Stay nearby until a Columbia Gas representative arrives, or leave a note on the door stating where you can be reached.

Do not use matches, electric switches or any kind of appliances or motorized tools.

If natural gas is shut off at the meter valve, do not try to turn it back on — wait for a Columbia Gas technician to turn it on safely.

Contact a qualified heating contractor or plumber to service your appliances and make sure they can safely be returned to service.

Do not attempt to place natural gas appliances back into service yourself. A qualified person should check, clean, repair and pressure test all gas pipes, which may have been clogged with mud or debris. Appliances should be restored before calling Columbia Gas to restore service.

After a flood, Columbia Gas will have crews in the flooded area to shut off gas service to flooded homes so clean up work can be started safely.

Pink ribbons will be on the outside meter of homes where service has been turned off. For homes where meters are located inside, pink flags will be in the yards. Additionally, doorknob cards will be left at each premise.

Damage could also occur to switches, controls, thermostats, furnace heat exchangers, burner and pilot parts and rusting metal parts.

If water levels were enough to cover the gas meter and you don't see a doorknob card or pink flag, call Columbia Gas to check your meter and regulator before using your gas system.

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Home renovation effort to benefit local soldier

A group of local soldiers, supporters and businessmen will be working this Sunday to renovate Shane Parsons' residence in Fostoria.

Parsons was severely injured in Iraq in 2006. His mom, Cindy Parsons, has been at his bedside throughout the ordeal, as his recovery has taken them from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C., then to Minnesota, back to Walter Reed Hospital, and then to Texas.

The family is expected to return to the Fostoria area for a visit over Labor Day weekend. The city plans to honor him with an escort down U.S. 23, featuring fire vehicles, police cars and a motorcycle group from the Patriot Guard. Mayor John Davoli plans to give Shane a key to the city on Sept. 2.

But the family's residence at 1754 N. Union St. has been extensively damaged by a water leak, which went undetected for months. The lumber, drywall and portions of the remainder of the house received extensive mold damage.

As a result, Frank "Sarge" Harris, a member of the Ohio Patriot Guard, heard about the situation and decided to coordinate this Sunday's renovations. He and a group of volunteers will be at the Parsons' residence to complete the repairs for the family.

The Patriot Guard is a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts who attend funerals to honor fallen U.S. military personnel.

The local Patriot Guard group has been raising funds for the Parsons since November 2006. They have sponsored motorcycle runs and sold camouflage bands to help the family pay their bills.

The group, along with workers from the city of Fostoria and D & D Home Improvement, will spearhead the improvement project. Following a recent assessment of the damage, several city of Fostoria workers began working on the rooms, ripping out the ruined carpet, padding and baseboard. Most of the lumber in the house will be replaced, along with the drywall and insulation, the roof and other portions of the structure. Replacement of wiring is also likely.

A list of the materials that will be needed to continue the repairs has been developed and Harris has been recruiting donors and contacting businesses to donate materials at cost.

In addition, the house needs to be made handicapped accessible for Shane, so the plans include installing a ramp and widening the front entrance. A room addition will be included in the project to provide a workout area for Shane. The concrete and metal rebar have been donated for that project and the foundation is expected to be finished Sunday.

The Red Cross is providing water and the city administration is offering pizza to the volunteers, but the organizers are still accepting food, such as snack items, for the crews. The coordinators expect to have 100-200 skilled tradesman working at the site.

Anyone with carpentry or other skilled trades is also welcome to volunteer, while funds are still needed to purchase additional supplies for the repair.

For additional information, contact Harris at

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