Dense fog was cited as a contributing factor yesterday in massive highway pileups in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana that caused at least four deaths and dozens of injuries.
On tap today, the flooding of area waterways, with downtown merchants in Grand Rapids, Ohio, bracing for the prospect of having standing water on Main Street for the first time in 23 years and the seventh time since 1904.
Fog-induced limited visibility contributed to a five-vehicle crash in eastern Defiance County's Richland Township that resulted in the death of Steven L. Adams, 38, of Defiance.
The crash occurred about 9 a.m. on State Rt. 18 near State Rt. 281.
A tractor-trailer driven by Timothy S. Hickman, 39, of Van Wert, Ohio, struck the truck that Mr. Adams was driving, causing a chain-reaction crash that damaged two other trucks and a car in front of Mr. Adams, troopers at the Ohio Highway Patrol's Defiance post said.
A separate chain-reaction crash, involving five vehicles at
8 a.m. and then two others about an hour later, was reported on U.S. 24 near Texas, Ohio. Authorities closed a seven-mile stretch of U.S. 24 between State Rt. 109 and the Lucas County line for more than two hours.
Other fog-related wrecks included a massive 100-vehicle pileup about 3 p.m. on eastbound I-96 near Lansing, where at least two people died and 25 others were hurt.
"The fog was really bad. You could only see about 20 feet in front of you," Keena Sioui said. "Then we heard three 'slams' in back of us, one after the other, and cars just kept hitting. We kept moving forward so we wouldn't get hit."
A 20-vehicle crash about 11 a.m. on the Indiana Toll Road, resulted in at least one death and several injuries. A 43-mile stretch of the toll road was closed to westbound traffic, prompting Ohio troopers to divert traffic before drivers crossed into Indiana.
Before the fog, thunder and lightning accompanied yesterday's rain, with more than a half-inch of it falling at Toledo Express Airport.
And just days after being pelted by an unexpected snowstorm, Toledo was a downright balmy 57 degrees. Defiance and Findlay got up to 64.
Today's forecast calls for a high of 56 and thunderstorms, followed by a plunge tonight in which temperatures are expected to drop to 18 degrees and then get no higher than 24 degrees throughout the weekend.
Despite the rain and melting snow, the old-timers in Grand Rapids went about their business the way they usually do when the threat of a flood looms.
A flood chart that is a testament to what the village has endured stands in the middle of downtown. Separate lines depict each flood level, from a height of about 2 1/2 feet in 1978 to nearly 7 feet in 1904.
A similar flood chart exists on an exterior wall of the Issac Ludwig Mill at Providence Metropark along U.S. 24, across from Grand Rapids.
"If it happens, it happens," village Administrator Chad Hoffman said of today's flood threat while finishing his lunch at LaRoe's restaurant. "It's Mother Nature - we can't stop what she gives us."
Locals surf the Internet for periodic updates. They move whatever they can off the floor.
"Everybody's got different tolerance levels. Some get really worked up, and others just sit back," Mr. Hoffman said.
Les Heyman, an assistant Grand Rapids fire chief, made the rounds of Main Street businesses yesterday after he learned that the National Weather Service expected the Maumee River to crest above 20 feet sometime today in the Grand Rapids area. Downtown's lowest part starts taking in water when the river rises above 18 feet. The fire station, on the opposite side of downtown, starts taking in water when the river gets to about 19 1/2 feet, he said.
Still, Mr. Heyman said nobody was ready to panic. A decision on whether to request sandbags from the Wood County Emergency Management Agency was not expected to be made until last night, he said.
Eric Larson, Wood County EMS director, said 60,000 sandbags are available in Bowling Green for communities that request them.
A flooding threat exists in Pemberville for residents who live along the Portage River. "Old-timers in Pemberville said they've never seen the river come up this fast," Mr. Larson said.
But in Waterville, the mood was similar to that in Grand Rapids. Fire Chief Steve Parsons said Waterville officials are "just sitting back and watching."
But he added: "I'm not going to ignore [the threat]. I respect the river."
Mr. Parsons has lived all 53 years of his life along the Maumee. He was once Grand Rapids' fire chief and later became the Waterville chief. He said he was in fifth grade in 1959 when downtown Grand Rapids was submerged by about four feet of water, trailing only the floods of 1904 and 1913.
"We ran to higher ground," he said.
In Seneca County, high water covered U.S. 224, forcing authorities to close that highway between County Road 17 and State Rt. 67 yesterday. And a sinkhole that opened Tuesday caused officials to shut State Rt. 590 between Bettsville and the county's northern border, forcing motorists to detour 15 miles out of their way.
Gov. Bob Taft yesterday added Hancock and two other counties to a list of those eligible for disaster assistance, bringing 59 of Ohio's 88 counties under the emergency declaration. Other area counties include Allen, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Seneca, and Wyandot.
Blade staff writers Steve Murphy, Mark Zaborney, Vanessa Winans, Jane Schmucker, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Tom Henry at:
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Dense fog was cited as a contributing factor yesterday in massive highway pileups in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana that caused at least four deaths and dozens of injuries. On tap today, the flooding of area waterways, with Grand Rapids bracing for the prospect of having standing water on Main Street for the first time in 23 years.