Rain, melting snow brings Ohio floods, evacuations

By John Seewer

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 28 2011 2:25 p.m. MST

A store along Main Street uses a hand-made sign to advertise a flood sale, Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, in Findlay, Ohio. Sandbags were being distributed and city officials made individual warning calls to downtown businesses Monday because of the threat of yet another major flood along the Blanchard River, following storms throughout Ohio that flooded roads and homes, cut power to thousands and prompted some evacuations.

JD Pooley, Associated Press

FINDLAY, Ohio — Warren Krout lost just about everything inside his pawn shop when floodwaters swamped his store nearly four years ago. With the Blanchard River rising again, he had help this time.

Football players from the University of Findlay lugged mattresses, an air hockey table and reclining chairs to the second floor of his store Monday.

"Stack it as tight as you possibly can," he told the young men who had volunteered to help. What they couldn't carry was put up on concrete blocks or left to chance.

"Some of this stuff is just going to have to go down the river," Krout said.

Floodwaters brought on by a mix of melting snow and heavy rains were making life miserable across Ohio on Monday, causing power outages and forcing dozens out of their homes.

Crews using boats rescued nearly 30 people, including a group trapped in a mobile home park, in western Ohio's Mercer and Auglaize counties. About 100 people were told to leave their homes Monday morning near Painesville east of Cleveland because of rising water on the Grand and Chagrin rivers, and about 15 miles away, a low-level dam broke and flooded yards in Gates Mills.

In northwest Ohio's Hardin County, authorities advised against any travel because so many roads were under water.

It's likely to get worse, especially around Findlay, where resident know all too well what to do when there's a threat of flooding.

Sandbags were being distributed and city officials made individual warning calls to downtown businesses Monday as forecasts called for the Blanchard River to rise 6.5 feet above flood level, just a foot lower than the catastrophic August 2007 flood that swamped this town 45 miles south of Toledo. The river was expected to rise overnight before beginning to level off Tuesday morning.

"We anticipate a flood every time it rains," Krout said.

Inside his store, the football players lifted display cases on to stacks of concrete blocks.

"I'm sweating like I'm coming out of a workout," said Richard Sumlin, a third-year student who helped pile sandbags during the last big flood in 2008.

"If the predictions hold true, we'll be OK," said appliance store owner Jack Bindel. "But another foot could make a big difference."

Photos of past floods, including the 2007 deluge that ruined everything in his basement, decorate the wall behind his desk.

"People who live here understand it's going to flood," Bindel said.

The National Weather Service said wind gusts of 60 mph or more were recorded in several locations during the violent storms that began Sunday night. Many areas had at least two inches of rain on top of 6 inches of melting snow that already had been on the ground. Utilities reported that more than 25,000 Ohio customers had no power late Monday morning.

Flooding in the Cleveland area closed some area schools Monday, including those in the Cuyahoga Heights district, which described "extreme flooding" on its website.

Gov. John Kasich was unable to return from Washington, D.C., as planned Monday because of severe weather and had to cancel a news conference. He was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Associated Press writers Doug Whiteman and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus contributed to this report.

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