Governor tours flood-damaged NW Ohio

Gov. Ted Strickland got an aerial view Friday of flood-damaged northwest Ohio, where rising rivers forced evacuations, damaged homes and closed highways and businesses.

After flying over the city, the governor said it was almost traumatizing to see how many families had been affected by this week's flooding, especially given that it's the city's second major flood since August.

"The state stands ready to help," Strickland told the mayor and local emergency officials. "We're all in this together."

At least 300 homes experienced flooding this time, and most also were hit by last summer's historic flood, said Jim Barker, the city's safety director.

The Blanchard River reached 5 feet above flood stage early Thursday before it began to drop, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland. The city was hit much harder during the flooding in August - its worst since 1913 - but for some, it was bad enough.

Fire Capt. Tom DeFrieze said only three people needed help getting out of their homes Thursday, and that the rescue boats on standby weren't needed. Only a dozen people took refuge at a shelter outside the flood zone.

Thirty-seven residents of a nursing home near Tiffin were evacuated Friday when rising waters from the Sandusky River crept up to the windows of the basement, said Dan Stahl, director of the Seneca County Emergency Management Agency. He said the residents were taken to a nearby rehabilitation center for temporary housing.

Stahl said floodwaters also forced the evacuation of about 40 people in Tiffin, which is about 25 miles east of Findlay.

About 40 miles northwest of Findlay, floodwaters forced evacuations in Defiance, where the Maumee, Auglaize and Tiffin rivers come together. Forty homes and seven businesses had water either in basements or on the first floor, said Capt. Ed Bohn of the Defiance Fire Department.

The flooding also forced the closure of state Route 424 and numerous residential streets, Bohn said.

He said the three rivers - which were five to seven feet above flood stage - crested Friday morning.

About 320 homes were damaged by floodwaters in the village of Ottawa, which sits along the Blanchard River, said Putnam County spokesman John Norris. He said there were voluntary evacuations Thursday, with 19 people rescued from their homes and 15 spending the night at a Red Cross shelter.

Norris said high water forced the closing of numerous downtown businesses as well as the courthouse and village offices.

Flood waters also invaded the central business district of Grand Rapids, where an antiques shop called The River's Edge was living up to its name Friday morning, with water up to its front steps.

Bradley Gilbert, director of the Wood County Emergency Management Agency, said Friday that the water already was beginning to recede.

"It's a minor to moderate occurrence for them, they were prepared for it," he said, adding that the downtown last experience minor flooding in 2005.