Flooding revisits Ohio city inundated 4 years ago

By John Seewer

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 1 2011 7:35 a.m. MST

Aaron Lester, left, and his dad, Charles, move sandbags into place 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 — Rivers rose and flooded out residents a day after wicked storms whipped across the eastern half of the nation, lashing some areas with heavy rain and tornadoes that damaged buildings and killed at least three people.

Flooding from an ice-jammed creek forced about 200 people from their homes in a western New York hamlet where the waterway flows into Lake Erie. The main street in the northwest Ohio city of Findlay, badly hit by flooding in August 2007, was under 3 feet of water Tuesday morning.

"This doesn't even shock you anymore," said Casey Hensley, manager of a Domino's Pizza store in Findlay. "It makes you mad, but it doesn't shock you."

Sandbags were stacked throughout downtown as forecasts called for the Blanchard River to rise 6.5 feet above flood level. That's just a foot lower than the catastrophic flood four years ago that swamped the city, 45 miles south of Toledo, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

In Tennessee, three people were killed when high winds and rain wreaked havoc across the state Monday, uprooting trees and flooding roads.

Officials in the city of White House, north of Nashville, told WSMV-TV that a public works employee died when he was washed into a drain pipe after pulling debris out of it to unclog it.

A 79-year-old man died in Franklin County, in the southern part of the state, when his mobile home was knocked off its foundation and he was pinned underneath. A woman was hurt and taken to a hospital.

"I don't know if it was a tornado or straight line wind, but whatever it was beat us up pretty good," Franklin County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Guess said.

In Knoxville, heavy rain fell Monday morning and afternoon, flooding streets, basements and backyards. A man driving a truck was killed when he hit a tractor-trailer on a highway near Murfreesboro; authorities blamed wet roads.

Six people were treated at a hospital in Maryville, Ill., where storms tore off part of the roof at a church.

In New York, residents evacuated Monday as the Cattaraugus Creek flooded the Lake Erie community of Sunset Bay, a cluster of seasonal and year-round homes in the town of Hanover, southwest of Buffalo.

In Ohio, the flooding divided Findlay in half, forcing Tuesday morning commuters to take long and slow detours to get around the water.

Downtown, a 4-foot wall of an estimated 1,000 sandbags kept floodwaters out of Hensley's pizza shop. During the record flood in 2007, water got into the building and damaged the oven, Domino's manager Casey Hensley said.

"The sad thing is we just got rid of the sandbags that we had kept from the last flood," he said, adding that new sandbags were trucked in Monday. He got in to work at 6 a.m. Tuesday through a back door that was still accessible and said the shop would be open and delivering pizzas.

A mix of melting snow and heavy rain threatened flooding in all 88 of Ohio's counties, the National Weather Service said. Findlay's residents know all too well what to do when faced with the threat of high waters.

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

University of Findlay football players lugged mattresses, an air hockey table and reclining chairs to the second floor of Krout's store. "Stack it as tight as you possibly can," he told the young men.

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 Monday.

Hancock County emergency director Garry Valentine said 13 people were rescued from their homes and taken to an emergency shelter Monday night.

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

Crews in boats rescued nearly 30 people, including a group trapped in a mobile home park in western Ohio, said Mike Robbins, Mercer County's emergency management director.

And flooding 4 feet deep destroyed a building at Cleveland's zoo and killed a peregrine falcon.

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