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Published: Saturday, 7/29/2006

July wettest month


It was a record-breaker, but that's little consolation to residents of an East Toledo neighborhood where raw sewage and stormwater flooded basements yesterday.

July has become the wettest month in Toledo since the National Weather Service began measuring precipitation in 1871.

With 9.15 inches of rain so far, this month has beaten the previous record of 8.49 inches of precipitation that fell on the city in October, 1881, said Mike Dutter, a meteorologist with the weather service's office in Cleveland.

The onslaught of summer storms easily broke the record for the formerly wettest July, in 1969, when 6.75 inches of rain fell on the city.

"It's just been a rainy period," Mr. Dutter said. "It's just been that the weather pattern over the past month has been very favorable for these thunderstorms to develop and move over northern Ohio."

He said most of the 9.15 inches of rain fell primarily on three days - 1.19 inches on July 3, 1.81 inches on July 12, and the 3.15 inches that fell most recently during thunderstorms Thursday evening.

The balance fell throughout the month.

"There's been some places across northern Ohio that have seen average amounts of rain, but nothing as extreme as Toledo has in the past month," Mr. Dutter said.

Crews in Painesville, Ohio, get ready to launch a boat into the street of a condo development, hoping to rescue a man who was thought to be trapped in a truck. They could not find him. Crews in Painesville, Ohio, get ready to launch a boat into the street of a condo development, hoping to rescue a man who was thought to be trapped in a truck. They could not find him.

In East Toledo, heavy rain contributed to a basement-flooding problem that city officials said developed after a sewer line collapsed, causing raw sewage to back up into an unknown number of basements.

Bob Williams, director of Toledo's public utilities department, said that after complaints began coming in from homes near Nevada and Thurston streets Thursday night, sewer crews attempted to flush the plugged pipe with a "jet machine." But their effort yielded dirt and stone downstream, he said, which indicated a cave-in.

Ron Wells of Thurston got home from work about 12:30 a.m. yesterday and checked his basement - where son Bill, 35, and grandson, Liam, 9, have been staying while Bill attends Owens Community College.

"He came back upstairs,"

Ron's wife, Diana, said. "[Bill] lost everything."

Sewage and water 8 inches deep damaged her son's television and couch and got all over her grandson's toys.

"I don't know what they're going to do," Mrs. Wells said. "I had a huge box of all of our pictures. That just got ruined."

The family endured the heat and smell and began their cleanup. Liam went to stay with his mother. "I didn't want him near all that bacteria," Mrs. Wells said.

Jan Rossler's basement on Dover Place was dry about 10:30 p.m. Thursday. About 7:30 a.m. yesterday as she got ready to take her father, Paul Mausser, 91, to dialysis, she looked down and was puzzled by the plastic storage box at the bottom of the stairs.

"What is that doing there?" she wondered. "I didn't realize until I started going down that I had water up to the second step. This is the third time we've had water in about six weeks. I walked down, it was up to my knees. I get very emotional talking about this. I'd just finished cleaning the stuff from the last time."

Sodden family photos were placed to dry on bedsheets spread on the lawn. The furnace and air-conditioning units may be ruined.

"I didn't actually get the sewage, thank God," said Ms. Rossler, who moved in about seven years ago to help her father. "Three times now, and each time you throw out more."

City workers couldn't excavate the problem spot right away because it is 20 feet underground, Mr. Williams said. Instead, workers installed a temporary bypass pipe with a pump, but the bypass was inadequate to handle runoff from the rainfall late Thursday and early yesterday.

The utilities department is aware of "between 7 and 10" homes affected by the problem, but had not surveyed the neighborhood for unreported sewage backups, Mr. Williams said. The neighborhood has not yet been reached by a city program to separate storm drains from the sewage system.

City officials hope to have the area's other underground utilities marked off and a contractor hired so that the damaged sewer pipe can be repaired starting Tuesday or Wednesday, the utilities director said.

In northeast Ohio, fast-rising water gushed into homes, condominiums, and apartments yesterday, chasing people to rooftops to await boat rescues as 10 inches of rain raised the Grand River 11 feet above flood level.

"We think everybody got out, but we cannot be certain," warned fire Capt. Ken Takacs, who estimated that 600 residents were evacuated along the Grand River, which curves around three sides of Painesville, a Cleveland suburb.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but the Coast Guard searched for nine hours with a helicopter and three boats for a man reported missing while checking on his boat at a marina in Eastlake near the Chagrin River.

Gov. Bob Taft declared a state of emergency in Lake County, allowing the state to provide resources to help respond to the flooding and aid recovery.

The evacuations in Painesville included 10 to 12 people rescued from condo and apartment rooftops by boat crews operating in 15 feet of water, Captain Takacs said. Some people had to drop from second-floor windows.

In one rescue, a large front-end loader nudged a rescue boat through a tough current to reach a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair, Captain Takacs said.

The Toledo area will get a chance to dry out this weekend. No rain is in the forecast. Expect temperatures in the upper 90s and heat indexes approaching 100 today, Mr. Dutter said. Tomorrow could be even warmer, with temperatures predicted in the upper 90s. Both days will be humid and muggy, Mr. Dutter said.

Staff writers Meghan Gilbert and David Patch contributed to this report; information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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