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Published: Sunday, 1/16/2005

Area floodwaters receding steadily

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
An urge to view disaster is irresistible to walkers checking floods yesterday on River Road at Maumee's Side Cut Metropark. An urge to view disaster is irresistible to walkers checking floods yesterday on River Road at Maumee's Side Cut Metropark.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

As the floodwaters continued to recede yesterday, northwest Ohio's river towns and roads began to look more like themselves - mostly.

Despite area rivers' steady fall, the National Weather Service's Cleveland office said yesterday that flood warnings remain in effect for the Maumee, Portage, and Sandusky rivers in Ohio. The weather service's Detroit office said a flood warning is in effect for the River Raisin in southeast Michigan.

The Maumee River remained over its banks and even some roads in Defiance and Henry counties.

But the muddy water is starting to behave, although pockets of flooding remained in Defiance, keeping residents out of their homes off Kingsbury Park and in the Riverside area. Before residents can return, their houses will have to pass a city inspection, Defiance Administrator Jeff Leonard said.

Even though they are not yet allowed to move back into their homes, several residents surveyed damage to their structures. Just before they got married last July, Jonathan Young and his wife moved into a modest Defiance house with a splendid view of the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers. But Thursday night, the view got too close for comfort and the Youngs, along with their neighbors, left for higher ground.

"It's the perfect location," Mr. Young said. "Except for the floods."

Yesterday, Mr. Young borrowed a pair of waders from his uncle and sloshed his way through the frigid water to the home his wife and he had not yet finished decorating. He estimates his first floor had about a foot of water in it at the height of the flood. Water still laps at two sides of the house.

"As soon as you walk in, you hear this 'squish, squish,'‚óŹ" he said. "In the kitchen, it's all brown with mud.

Chuck Fronk pumps out more than five feet of water from the basement of his home on Summit Street in Defiance. He said yesterday that he hopes to be back inside early this week. Chuck Fronk pumps out more than five feet of water from the basement of his home on Summit Street in Defiance. He said yesterday that he hopes to be back inside early this week.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

"It's heartbreaking," Mr. Young said. "You're paying for a house, and boom! You can't live there."

Around the corner, in the 100 block of Summit Street, a couple of neighbors on slightly higher ground were already at work on their houses, despite the lack of electricity. The drone of a generator on the front porch of Jacqueline Parrish's house echoed down the street.

Inside, Mrs. Parrish's children worked to clean the mud and water from the house in which they grew up and their mother has lived for half a century. The work inspired memories of the flood of 1982, which damaged communities along the river and brought 18 inches of water into the Parrish home.

"We're pretty lucky," said Don Parrish, with whom Mrs. Parrish is staying until she can return home. "We lost everything in '82."

Next door, Chuck Fronk seemed philosophical as he pumped more than five feet of water out of his basement. Thursday night, the machine operator had packed up a few things, plus his Jack Russell terrier, Petie, and went to stay with his mother. He hopes to be back early this week.

"Compared to the tsunami, this isn't much," he said.

Downriver, in hard-hit Grand Rapids, most businesses sported "open" signs on their doors and windows as the water continued to shrink away from the buildings.

In Pemberville, Mayor James Opelt said water from the Portage River receded from the downtown area yesterday and villagers are in the cleanup and dry-out stages.

"The water is not back in its banks, but it's close," he said.

Firefighters went from house to house pumping basements, and all the streets were reopened even though there is still water around residences.

There was about 10 inches of water in the downtown area at 9:30 p.m. Friday. By noon yesterday, the water was about 30 feet from its banks and was going down. Businesses have reopened, Mr. Opelt said.

He said a Pemberville Disaster Relief Fund has been established through Union Bank, 132 East Front St., to raise funds for residents who lost items in the flood, such as furnaces, water heaters, and washers and dryers. Checks must be marked Pemberville Disaster Relief Fund.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office rescinded its Level Three emergency warning but cautioned drivers to watch for ice on roads that had been covered with water. The office said two roads remain closed: State Rt. 114 from Cascade Park to Road 21-K, and State Rt. 634 from Cascade Park to Dupont.

The urge to view disaster proved irresistible to pedestrians and drivers all the way from Maumee's Side Cut Metropark to the waterlogged neighborhood in Defiance. Few seemed interested in braving the waves, though. A driver of a sport utility vehicle drove up to the rushing waters covering State Rt. 424, which had several submerged sections in Henry and Defiance counties, then stopped. Apparently rethinking his decision, he backed up and turned around.

Even wildlife had new experiences yesterday because of the flooding. At Independence Dam State Park in Defiance County, a good-sized fish flopped its way out of the Maumee River, across State Rt. 424, and into water that had pooled on the highway's north side.

From Defiance to Maumee, the river's muddy waters swirled and roiled their way northeast. But by downtown Toledo, the waters had calmed, moving swiftly but smoothly toward the lake. Only a pocket of debris that collected near the pavilion at International Park hinted at the troubles upstream.

Blade staff writer Christina Hall contributed to this report.

Contact Vanessa Winans at: vwinans@theblade.com or 419-724-6168.



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