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Published: Monday, 2/11/2008

Extreme cold adds to misery of NW Ohio flood victims

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
James Wright is bundled up against the bitter cold as he waits for the bus at Oak and Woodville streets on the east side. Today's temperatures aren't expected to be any better. (THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080207&Kategori=NEWS12&Lopenr=520661654&Ref=PH" target="_blank  "><b>Flood photos</b></a> James Wright is bundled up against the bitter cold as he waits for the bus at Oak and Woodville streets on the east side. Today's temperatures aren't expected to be any better. (THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080207&Kategori=NEWS12&Lopenr=520661654&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Flood photos</b></a>
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Plummeting temperatures and powerful wind gusts whipped up wind chills as low as -16 degrees yesterday as floodwaters that have plagued the area for the second time in six months slowly began to recede.

The extreme cold made for lousy conditions for victims trying to recover from their water-logged experiences, as well as others just trying to endure a winter day in February.

Blowing snow slithered across highways and wind gusts shook vehicles trying to maintain a steady course.

"Mother Nature is not nice sometimes," Denise Freeman said.

She and her husband Mitch, who live in Wood County's Webster Township, and nine other family members, removed flood-damaged furniture and other items from the basement of a rental home on Water Street near downtown Pemberville. The home, owned by her mother-in-law, borders the Portage River.

As they did, they tried to avoid slipping on ice created by dripping water that froze when it hit the ground.

"It was just like an instant freeze, so it was kind of hard to manage getting wet things into a big Dumpster," she said. "The water usually comes up a couple of inches, but this flood kind of enveloped the whole basement."

"It was hard and sad," she said of the recovery effort. "But we were there together and it was on Sunday and all the more special."

"We had a good time in light of the situation," Mrs. Freeman said.

The National Weather Service office in Cleveland issued advisories yesterday warning of extreme cold, strong winds, and flooding that just wouldn't go away.

At 6 a.m. yesterday, the temperature at Toledo Express Airport was 23 degrees, with a wind chill of 6 degrees.

Ten hours later - at 4 p.m. - the mercury had dipped to 6 degrees, with a windchill of -16.

In Findlay, which had been inundated with water from the Blanchard River, the same was true.

At 6 a.m., it was 25 degrees, with a windchill of 9 degrees. But by 6 last night, the temperature was 6 degrees and the windchill was -15.

The weather service's wind chill advisory for the area was to remain in effect until 10 this morning.

And some flood warnings weren't going away because the water wasn't receding as quickly as first thought.

"There was more rain and runoff than we anticipated," said Walter Fitzgerald, a meteorologist at the weather service's Cleveland office.

The warning for the Maumee River was extended until tomorrow afternoon. Defiance and Napoleon were reporting minor flooding, with moderate flooding in Grand Rapids. Minor flooding was reported in Waterville, according to the weather service.

Park benches and trees along the Maumee River in Grand Rapids that were surrounded by flood water a few days ago were encased in ice yesterday afternoon.

As for the Sandusky River, minor flooding was reported in the Tiffin area, with the river near flood stage in Fremont.

The Portage River in Woodville and the River Raisin in Dundee and Monroe were still near flood stage last night, according to the weather service.

In Findlay, Mayor Pete Sehnert said conditions were "awfully cold," but had little effect on floodwater along the Blanchard, which returned to its banks Saturday as city crews worked to bring Findlay back to normal.

"It's hard on the residents. They're frustrated," the mayor said. "Hopefully, we can get some plans done that will minimize the damage that this rivers causes us."

Strong winds blowing across Lake Erie necessitated a low water advisory from Maumee Bay to Vermilion.

"West winds to 40-knot gales will cause the water level on the western end of Lake Erie to drop below the critical mark for safe navigation," the weather service said.

At 2 p.m., the water level at Toledo was about two feet below the critical level for safe navigation and likely to fall an additional foot before the wind weakened early today, the weather service said.

Petty Officer Shawn McNerney, of the U.S. Coast Guard's Marblehead station, said yesterday's strong winds broke up whatever Lake Erie ice there was.

"People would normally be out there ice fishing right now. But with all the wind, waves, and the current, there are no fisherman," he said.

"The wind is blowing at about 45 knots, which is equal to about 55 to 60 mph," Mr. McNerney said about 6:15 last night.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the area's recent weather is "not a normal event."

He said it will warm up slightly, but continue to be cold throughout the week.

"As far as this extreme cold air is concerned, we should start seeing a warm up probably around Tuesday," he said. "Temperatures will start moving upward, but still will be below normal until Friday."

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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