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Lucas County granted emergency status

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Toledo refuse collectors Michael Lee, left, and Eric Johnson pick up flood-damaged items from homes in South Toledo.

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Lucas County yesterday was issued an emergency declaration by the Ohio governor's office, making state assistance available to residents still bailing out after last week's floods.

Cuyahoga and Stark counties also received such declarations yesterday by Gov. Bob Taft. Erie and Huron counties were made eligible for emergency assistance Saturday.

C.J. Couch, spokesman for the state Emergency Management Agency, said with the declaration comes additional state help. For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation can do debris clearance and money will be made available through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Families with a child or pregnant women in the five counties are now eligible for up to $1,500 in aid if they show economic need. Elderly or disabled residents with economic need can get up to $750 in disaster assistance.

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Piles of household items that were ruined in last week's storm await pickup as city crews make their way along Longwood Avenue in Toledo yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Taft's office granted Lucas County emergency status, and city officials pledged continued help to the parts of the city hardest hit by the downpour.

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"The next step is to have FEMA come out and do assessments with teams of state and county inspectors," Mr. Couch said.

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Sandy Wright cleans a home on Longwood Avenue, off Dorr Street. It was among many damaged in last week's storm.

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Bill Halsey, Lucas County Emergency Management Agency director, said evaluators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be coming to Lucas County later this week. He said whether federal dollars will be awarded will be known as early as Friday.

"We're hoping for a Presidential [Disaster] Declaration, which would mean the full gamut of FEMA grants," Mr. Halsey said, adding the declaration would make other types of aid unnecessary. "That's where you get the maximum amount of return for your citizens."

Mr. Halsey said most damage appeared to be within the Toledo city limits, speculating the amount of concrete and less drainage could be a factor. He said many areas with the worst damage, such as along Crawford Avenue in West Toledo, are near streams or creeks.

After a weekend hauling off tons of garbage and utilizing hundreds of volunteer hours, Toledo city officials promised continued vigilance in helping those in the parts of the city hardest hit by last week's torrential downpour.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said about 100 residents and city employees volunteered over the weekend to help their neighbors continue pulling ruined objects from their homes.

The city's refuse division hauled about 115 tons of debris from the soaked neighborhoods and will continue to make regular passes through the damaged neighborhoods for at least another week.

Mr. Finkbeiner said city officials are still hearing from residents in neighborhoods drying out from last week's mess. Over the weekend, city services were directed to the Copland Boulevard-Byrne Road area after residents there called in.

"We will be looking to see whether we need to assign additional crews to pick up additional debris," the mayor said during a news conference yesterday. "We want to encourage people to get on the phone and call."

The mayor said the city's help line - 419-936-2020 - will be manned until 8 p.m. daily until further notice.

Besides offering extra city services, the mayor promised residents help with their private insurance companies, if necessary. "Do not let these companies tell you they cannot be of assistance to you," he said. "If they do, call the city law department."

Mr. Finkbeiner asked that residents continue to be patient.

To those who were quoted in the news media saying they were ready to leave the city, the mayor asked that they stay and understand that "whenever man and water become engaged, water wins."

Both city and county officials said the amount of damage should qualify them for federal assistance.

Mr. Halsey said no dollar amount has been put on the damage, but out of 300 buildings inspected by county officials, 25 to 30 were classified as receiving major damage or destroyed. To get those classifications, buildings need a few feet of water on the first floor, flooded basements, or structural damage.

The damage evaluation effort is ongoing, Mr. Halsey said, and county residents should call to report damage. Residents can call the United Way at 211 or 1-800-650-4357 to report significant damage.

Mr. Halsey said "an inch or two of water in the basement" wouldn't qualify as significant damage.

The cleanup effort itself will take "weeks and weeks and weeks," he said.

Contact Eric Lund at:

elund@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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