Monday, October 8th, 2007


Findlay's history of flooding
"Blanchard River overflows bank, causing most remarkable flood in history of Findlay."
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Temperature reaches record high Sunday
Sunday's high temperature was a record breaker for Findlay.
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Portman to speak at GOP event
Former Ohio congressman and Bush budget director Rob Portman will speak at tonight's Hancock County Republican Party Fall Picnic at the University of Findlay's Koehler Center.
more >>
Ottawa businessman facing federal drug-related charges
OTTAWA — An Ottawa businessman has been indicted by a federal grand jury on more than 30 charges, including conspiracy to import narcotics and money laundering.
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Public Record
Docket
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Local News

Findlay's history of flooding

By JOHN GRABER

STAFF WRITER

"Blanchard River overflows bank, causing most remarkable flood in history of Findlay."

That headline appeared in a Findlay newspaper, but not this year.

It was 1904.

Over the years, the Findlay area has experienced many floods, and local newspapers through the years have chronicled the damage.

A look at newspaper flood coverage over time shows that while the years may change, the accounts of local flooding are much the same.

For instance, the 1913 and the 2007 floods both swamped downtown Findlay and virtually cut the city in two. They both also had the tragic consequence of claiming a human life.

Gale Augsburger, a 92-year-old McComb man, was killed Aug. 23 after being trapped by high water in his vehicle on Ohio 235, north of County Road 86 in Blanchard Township.

When leaving his vehicle that stalled in floodwaters, he could not negotiate the current while wading through the high water. When Hancock County 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.

The 1913 flood claimed the life of Findlay Police Capt. Albert B. McGowan.

According to a report in the March 27, 1913 edition of the Hancock Courier: "After doing valiant work for many hours Monday night McGowan and John Henderson guided a light row boat to the home of Charles O. Saunders, 323 East Main Cross street, shortly before 9 o'clock Tuesday with the expectation of removing Mr. and Mrs. Saunders to a place of safety. The combined weight of the four passengers was too much of a strain on the light craft and when pushed into the current it was beyond control and soon capsized, sending the officer down the stream to his death, while Mr. Saunders in an untiring effort succeeded in reaching a place of temporary safety for himself, wife and Mr. Henderson."

McGowan's body was not recovered until the floodwaters receded several days later — "several hundred feet from the scene of the accident."

"The death of this prominent and popular policeman was a severe shock to the entire community as there have been few officers of the law who by their tireless and conscientious work have won general favor with the public as he had done," the newspaper wrote.

"In the hour of need Captain McGowan was among the first to respond and many people in the recent flood owe their lives to the promptness with which he came to their aid."

The following is a look at how local newspapers reported on some of Findlay's biggest floods:



1904

The 1913 flood may get all the press, but few people seem to realize the Blanchard was spilling over its banks even before then — namely on Jan. 22, 1904, and again about two months later on April 1, 1904.

Curiously, there seems to be no mention of the January flood in the Morning Republican newspaper until the second flood hit.

The April 2, 1904 headlines were not so silent about the second flood. The river's high water dominated most of the front page. Sprawled across the top of the paper was the headline, "Blanchard River overflows bank, causing most remarkable flood in history of Findlay."

A smaller headline read, "Central portion of city inundated, hundreds were made homeless by the high water while loss will reach thousands of dollars."

Other headlines reported that "Main street was covered all afternoon while flood kept rising at the rate of one foot an hour, receding this morning."

Another headline reads, "Flood situation in Ottawa, Blanchard River there has reached an alarming stage and promises to equal January high water, Many other towns swamped."

"General reports from northwestern Ohio tell of many other disastrous overflows following rainfall."

As historic of an occasion as the headline makes this flood out to be, it still fought for space in the middle of the front page with a story about members of the temperance movement trying to get legislation passed in the U.S. Senate.

The actual text of the flood articles is difficult to make out. Some of the main story reads, "The waters of the Blanchard River are now lowering and since 7 o'clock have dropped 20 inches ... the present rate of water is falling so that North Main Street will be dry by noon ... a rough estimate of the loss last night is placed at between $80,000 and $100,000."

And then, as in January, the flood drops right off the paper's radar, as later front pages are frequently filled with accounts of the Russo-Japanese War.

There is no more mention of the flood after that single day's coverage until an advertisement for the J.M. Haley & Co. store in the April 16, 1904 edition, purposefully made to look like a newspaper article, leads with a headline proclaiming, "Another flood sweeps us!"

The store was holding a liquidation sale to move merchandise damaged in the flood.



1913

There is no question what the big story of the day was in the Wednesday, March 27, 1913 edition of the Hancock Courier newspaper.

A banner headline splayed across the top of the entire front page was "Findlay stems worst flood in history." A smaller headline read, "Property loss will reach the million dollar mark."

The flowery writing style of that era seems almost comical today. The lead story that day began, "Findlay is struggling to lift her head above the chaos and wreck of the most calamitous flood in her history of a hundred variegated years.

"The city is wind- and water-swept and cruel wreckage and utter desolation are the twin goblins hovering over the reeking scene of waste and woe.

"The very life of the city has been utterly paralyzed and from Sunday morning until Wednesday there was no rift in the lowering and deluging skies to let through even the glimmer of a heavenly star as a ray of hope to despairing humanity."

Like the August 2007 flood, which was created by torrential downpours over one to two days, the 1913 flood took time to build.

The Hancock Courier claims, "The rain commenced last Sunday morning when the church bells were calling people to Easter worship. It was a veritable deluge from the start and it never slackened a single moment during that entire day. From Sunday until Monday morning there was a record of five inches of rainfall ... At 3 o'clock Monday afternoon (the river) was within a foot of the Main Street and all the lower portions of the city were completely inundated."

By dark on Monday the water had reached the Main Street bridge, causing the city street car line to shut down, and was a foot over the bridge an hour later. That was when people stopped trying to cross the bridge.

Then, as now, the city was bisected.

One article claims, "when the flood was at its height, the water extended on Main Street from Lima Street on the south to Prospect Street on the north. It was 23 feet deep on the street bridge. And on North Main Street, near the T.B.G.&S Traction Company there was a dangerous current more than eight feet deep."

It wasn't just downtown that was affected. The east side of town was isolated by a "vast sea" as Lye Creek overflowed, as attested to by one story headlined, "Water was five miles wide in east Findlay."

Gas and electricity were lost and the mail stopped until that Thursday.

The town's people were quick to rally to help each other. A flood relief committee formed early Wednesday morning at the home of George P. Jones, and $4,000 was raised in a few hours.

Thousands of people signed a petition in the days immediately following the flood, asking the Hancock County Commissioners to raise and widen all of the bridges over the river. The county engineer proposed straightening the river in town, which was later done.

Many called for the river to be dredged, but that seems to have been dismissed by community leaders as too costly and ineffectual.

Not all the news was bad, though. A small blurb in the March 28, 1913 edition of the Weekly Jeffersonian newspaper claimed that thousands of Findlay's rats were killed in the deluge.



1959

The next time a major flood hit Findlay was on Feb. 11, 1959. The day's top headline of the Republican-Courier newspaper read, "Blanchard crests, begins fall, flood is worst in 46 years."

A smaller headline read, "Damage expected to top $million; 180 evacuated."

Another headline reads, "Hundreds of homes suffer heavy losses."

Pictures of the water reaching just below the Main Street bridge, as well as submerging the East Main Cross-East Sandusky Street area were splashed across the front page.

For the first time, bylines appeared at the top of flood stories, identifying who wrote the stories. By then, reporters were actually writing the stories. In earlier times, stories were much more of a team effort, with reporters going out and getting facts and "reporting" them to an editor, who generally wrote the text of the story.

On this particular day in 1959, reporters Frank Bowers and Margaret Dennis teamed up on the flood story.

The text of the story follows: "For the second time in three weeks, Findlay yesterday was stiffened with its worst flood in 46 years.

"The worst appeared over, however at midnight. The swift flowing Blanchard River reached its crest at 10 p.m. with a reading of 774.61 feet above sea level.

"At 4 p.m. Tuesday the Blanchard, rising at the rate of three inches an hour, passed the crest of Jan. 21-22. That level was 773.75 feet above sea level."

The story continues, "Damage had not been estimated at midnight last night, but is expected to be in excess of well over one million dollars. The expanse of the flood, considerably greater than that of three weeks ago, took a toll in hundreds of more residences, caused much heavier damage to business houses, churches, the YMCA.

"Homes in all sections of the city suffered damage to foundations and heating plants when the flood started late Monday night, due to surface water pouring into basements, well before the river reached flood stage.

"Main Street, south of the bridge, was not affected, but sight-seers were cautioned to stay away from the bridge. Ice and debris gathered at the bridge and workers sought to break up the congestion.

"Water was so rapid under the bridge that it was feared a gas main might be ruptured.

"All routes except Ohio 15 and 87 and U.S. 224 West are open to traffic, the state patrol said."

All areas of the city were hit, but Civil Defense officials waited until dark before starting evacuations, which seems to have hampered the process.

"By 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 200 homes had been pumped out. Another 200 homes were on the waiting list."

And just as in the 2007 flood, there seems to have been concern about the safety of the drinking water supply.

"Utilities were not seriously impaired. Waterworks Superintendent A.D. Foltz said the water supply was not endangered by contamination.

"Many observers again admitted amazement of the lack of casualties. One man, G. Clyde Wolfe, 70, suffered a heart attack while bailing out his basement. He was dead on arrival of the rescue squad. Mr. Wolfe, however, had been ailing prior to that."

The National Guard responded to the 1959 flood. (The Guard was also called after the August 2007 flood, but instead, Ohio Department of Transportation crews were sent in to help clean up debris).

In 1959, "Evacuation centers were set up in various parts of the city but some of these very centers were forced to evacuate because of impending threat."

(Sounds familiar — St. Andrew's United Methodist Church was originally set up as a shelter during the August 2007 flood, but was evacuated because of rising water).

"The Whittier school and the armory were two cases in point. Many of the evacuees who didn't move in with friends or relatives found shelter, warmth and food at the Elks Lodge, the high school, the McKinley school, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

"The Red Cross, which along with the Salvation Army, supplied food to the homeless as well as the rescue workers, later sent many of the persons to the Phoenix Hotel. About ten persons were lodged there."

That didn't last, though, because the hotel would also have to be evacuated.

Stores north of the Main Street bridge were flooded and factories in the area were cut off from their work force.

Heavy rains were blamed for causing the flood.

"The torrential rains from 4 p.m. Monday to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday was the cause of the flood. A total of 3.06 inches of rain fell in the 17-hour period, causing the Blanchard River and Eagle and Lye creeks to overflow their banks."

The 1959 flood prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study ways to mitigate the flood risk.

The agency's report was released in 1962 and suggested things like building levee and flood walls on both banks of the river within city limits; minor channel improvements to the river; modification to highway and railroad bridges over the river; and the establishment of flood easements upstream and downstream of the city to control development, preserve natural flood storage and preserve the flood way.

The city's share of the cost was estimated at about $2.5 million. The city council at the time, and later city councils, opted not to act on the report.



1981

Hell and high water hit Findlay again on Monday, June 15, 1981.

The Courier's top headline of the day read, "Findlay area fights floodwaters," above a picture of a submerged downtown.

The lead story was written by reporter Mike Sobczyk, who had a different role during the August 2007 flood — serving as Findlay's service director.

"Cleanup efforts are under way as the city of Findlay attempts to bail out from its weekend bout with the rain-swollen river," the main story read in 1981.

"No confirmed deaths or serious flood-related injures have been reported, although the Findlay Police Department received one unconfirmed report of a teen-age girl drowning in the river.

"Mayor W. Bentley Burr lifted his state of emergency order at 9 p.m. Sunday, nearly 21 hours after it was first imposed. Burr issued the order at 12:10 a.m. Sunday when the continued flooding of the river and its tributaries spilled over to envelop much of the downtown and several residential areas.

"A curfew order, however, was imposed from 9 p.m. Sunday until daylight today for all 'flooded areas.' Burr said this involves those sections which have been cordoned off and 'essentially includes the downtown section.'"

About 100 National Guardsmen were called in following that flood.

"While early reports had indicated that more than 400 Findlay and Hancock County residents had to be evacuated from their homes because of the continued flooding over the weekend, (Findlay Service-Safety Director David) Wobser said Sunday night the number evacuated probably is closer to 75-100 persons.

"Most of these evacuations centered around a 50-square-block area in Findlay. Wobser said evacuations occurred on several streets including Clinton Court; Jefferson, Taylor, High, East Sandusky and North Main streets; East Main Cross Street; and both east and west sections of Front Street.

"Wobser added that the Ohio Division of Watercraft made nine boats and crews available to help city firemen and Hanco Ambulance rescuers who began evacuating residents to safety late Saturday night.

"James W. Farison, executive director of the Hancock County chapter of the American Red Cross, said about a dozen persons remained in the chapter's evacuation center at 111 Pearl St. Sunday evening " Nearly 60 persons were brought in to the center for a short stay before leaving to stay with families and friends. Another dozen or so made quick stops at the center before being picked up by relatives.

"Farison said most of the people who had been brought in had been evacuated by fire department and Hanco personnel via boat."

Three people were arrested for allegedly looting area stores. A gasoline leak was discovered from one of the pumps of the Owens Oil service station, but no one was evacuated because the current was diluting the mixture quickly enough.

Federal and local officials took to the skies in a helicopter to survey the damage and were shocked at just how bad it looked from a bird's-eye view.

Like the most recent flood, the 1981 flood seemed to come out of nowhere with a lot of rain falling over a relatively short period.

"The flood problems began Saturday when the Findlay area was pelted with 4.47 inches of rain. The bulk of this precipitation fell from 6:50 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, when 3.92 inches of rain was recorded by city wastewater treatment plant officials," the Courier reported.

The flooding shut down the Riverside Park pool " sound familiar?

The area was declared a federal disaster area about a week later.

A later Courier story listed the damage from the flood at over $13.3 million.

That broke down to 1,500 homes hit with "major damage," 700 more homes with "minor damage" and 200 businesses received "minor damage."

Contact staff writer John Graber at:

(419) 427-8417

johngraber@thecourier.com

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Temperature reaches record high Sunday

Sunday's high temperature was a record breaker for Findlay.

The mercury climbed one degree above the record for Oct. 7, reaching 89 degrees, according to Findlay's Water Pollution Control Center. The record was 88 degrees, set in 1990.

Ray Burkholder, U.S. weather observer in Pandora, also recorded 89 degrees, breaking his record high of 88 degrees for Oct. 7 set in 1963.

Saturday was hot, too, but the high temperature fell just short of the record. The high on Saturday was 87 degrees. The record high, which still stands, is 91 degrees for Oct. 6. That record was also tied in 1990.

It's expected to be hot again today, with temperatures in the 90s.

For those who prefer frost, and not steam, on their pumpkins, it looks like relief is on the way. Daytime highs in the mid-60s are predicted for later in the week, with nighttime lows dipping into the 40s.

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Portman to speak at GOP event

Former Ohio congressman and Bush budget director Rob Portman will speak at tonight's Hancock County Republican Party Fall Picnic at the University of Findlay's Koehler Center.

Doors to the event open at 6 p.m. Tickets, which are $15, are available at the door.

Portman was a six-term congressman from Cincinnati, serving three terms as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He was also a member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee.

He left Congress in 2005 to join the Bush administration as a trade representative. He was named budget director in 2006, replacing Josh Bolten who was maed the White Hosue Chief of Staff.

Portman left that post in June of this year.

The Republican has indicated that he may return to politics as a candidate for Ohio governor or the U.S. Senate.

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Ottawa businessman facing federal drug-related charges

OTTAWA — An Ottawa businessman has been indicted by a federal grand jury on more than 30 charges, including conspiracy to import narcotics and money laundering.

Jesse J. Bohrer, 32, the owner of Ottawa Water Co., pleaded innocent last week in U.S. District Court in Toledo to conspiracy to import narcotics; another narcotics conspiracy charge; 23 counts of money laundering; and seven counts of unlawful monetary transactions.

According to published reports, the charges stem from an online pharmacy business that Bohrer was running.

He was arrested Sept. 28 in Panama and extradited back to the United States.

Bohrer is being held without bail in the Lucas County jail.

A pretrial hearing in his case has been scheduled for Nov. 20.

His indictment follows a two-year investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Criminal Investigative Division of the Internal Revenue Service, and the Secret Service.

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Public Record

Docket

The following incidents were reported to the Findlay Police Department and the Hancock County Sheriff's Office:

Police Department

Computers and a camera were missing following a break-in Friday at American Loan Mortgage, 520 N. Main St.

A Findlay resident said Friday that she apparently had been a victim of a scam in which she had sent $2,000 to a Jamaican address to obtain a purported $500,000 in winnings.

A city man said Friday that $1,837.39 had fraudulently been drained from his bank account via his debit card.

A woman was charged with shoplifting crab legs, a rump roast, chicken breasts and pork chops Friday from Kroger, 1996 Tiffin Ave.

A man was facing a menacing allegation Friday for making threatening comments toward his girlfriend.

A city man was arrested for domestic violence after assaulting his wife at a North Main Street location Friday.

A man, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.14, was taken into custody Saturday for driving while intoxicated after a lane-change violation in the 1300 block of Tiffin Avenue.

Marijuana was discovered in a West-Skye View Drive household after police were summoned to a domestic dispute there Saturday.

A door was damaged Saturday at 606 McConnell St.

Food was taken from a residence Saturday at 425 Monroe Ave, Lot 48.

A Detroit man was cited for having marijuana Saturday in his Ford which had broken down in the 400 block of Madison Avenue.

An intoxicated fellow was charged with disorderly conduct in the 100 block of North Main Street on Saturday.

A man was arrested Sunday for having a drug pipe after police were called to a fracas in the 300 block of North Main Street.

An inebriated city person was cited for disorderly conduct after he was found grabbing hold of a light pole in the 300 block of South Main Street on Sunday.

A domestic disturbance occurred at a South Main Street location Sunday.

Sheriff's Office

A Rawson resident reported Wednesday that her estranged husband had written two dishonored checks on their bank account.

An Upper Sandusky woman was nabbed Saturday for petty theft after stealing items from an exhibit at the Christmas in October display at the Hancock County Fairgrounds.

A domestic quarrel took place inside a County Road 220 residence near Van Buren on Saturday.

An outdoor mirror was broken to a disabled vehicle on U.S. 68 near Ohio 15 on Friday.

Anyone with information about a crime can call Findlay/Hancock County Crimestoppers

between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays at (419) 425-TIPS, or visit the Web at www.

HancockCrimeStoppers.org.

Callers may remain anonymous.

Fire Calls

Friday

3:56 a.m., 15100 Birchaven Lane, alarm system malfunction.

10:15 a.m., 1300 Broad Ave., EMS call.

11:36 a.m., 1928 Tiffin Ave., traffic accident.

12:01 p.m., 701 W. Sandusky St., EMS call.

1:04 p.m., 1100 Broad Ave., false alarm.

1:26 p.m., 463 Tiffin Ave., EMS call.

1:31 p.m., 1008 East-View Drive, EMS call.

2:55 p.m., 207 E. Foulke Ave., EMS call.

3:42 p.m., 200 N. Main St., EMS call.

8:11 p.m., 222 Center St., unintentional alarm.

Saturday

1:52 a.m., 2509 Burberry Court, EMS call.

10:44 a.m., 423 W. Bigelow Ave., EMS call.

4:22 p.m., 532 S. Main St., EMS call.

5:29 p.m., 1041 Main St., EMS call.

10:11 p.m., 15075 U.S. 224, EMS call.

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