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Published: 7/13/2006

Rain renews surge of city flood woes

BY LAREN WEBER
AND IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
City employee Sandy Schultz clears debris along Crawford Avenue. The area has flooded three times in recent weeks. City employee Sandy Schultz clears debris along Crawford Avenue. The area has flooded three times in recent weeks.
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Streets and homes in some areas of Toledo were flooded yesterday after heavy rain - the third time in as many weeks, and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner pledged a quick response and even asked people to pray for a respite.

Residents in some of the hardest-hit areas said they were beyond frustration and pleaded for the city to fix the situation now.

"We have a big problem, and it's not just one or two houses. It's a complete neighborhood," said John Kunzler, of 338 Crawford Ave. "Somebody has got to get together and stop this."

The National Weather Service said 3.7 inches of rain fell in Sylvania Township and 2.60 inches fell at Toledo Express Airport from Tuesday night into yesterday afternoon.

Brian Astifan, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland, said other parts of Lucas County may have gotten more rain because of yesterday's storm track.

"With thunderstorms, you can have very localized, very heavy rainfall," he said.

Other communities drenched by the storm included Bowling Green, Sylvania, and Wauseon.

AccuWeather Inc., a private forecasting service in State Col-lege, Pa., said Fulton, Williams, and Henry counties received between 2 and 4 inches of rain.

There were flash flood warnings for Lucas County yesterday and for Hancock, Wynadot, and Crawford counties last night.

Toledo's leaders said the city's sewer and drainage systems and creeks would be improved to help prevent flooding the next time there is a heavy rain.

The mayor said the approximately 7 inches of rain that fell during the last three weeks is more than many Midwestern cities could handle.

"The ground is simply a sponge that is totally full of water," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "We can ask the Almighty that we get a break from this rain."

The mayor, who extended his sympathy to affected property owners, acknowledged the condition of creeks in the city contributed to some of the flooding.

"We are going to expedite the creek maintenance program," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

He also said the city would be looking at the vulnerable aspects of drainage systems to make them more efficient.

"This is a regional problem and is going to require a regional solution," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Warren Henry, a principal with the engineering firm Finkbeiner, Pettis & Strout Inc., which has won many city projects in the past, will begin working full-time for the city on Monday to evaluate the drainage system.

The mayor's father was a senior partner with the engineering firm from 1937 to 1965.

Some of the hardest-hit areas included the Crawford Avenue neighborhood and areas of Secor Road - which also were badly flooded during storms on June 21 and July 4.

Though city crews cleaned brush and other debris from Shantee Creek after the storm on June 21, water continued to flow over its banks and into the Crawford neighborhood yesterday.

Mr. Kunzler was one of many people in that area whose homes flooded during each of the last three storms.

Three city trucks pumped water from the neighborhood out onto Laskey Road.

Crews placed concrete blocks in the creek at Bowman Park to try to restrict the water flow, said Bob Williams, the city's utilities director.

Officials said earlier this month that the repeat flooding on Crawford could be caused by a recently installed storm-water retention system in the park that failed to retain storm water as it should.

Despite his crews' efforts, Mr. Williams said the rainfall was more than the ground could absorb because it is still saturated from the previous two storms.

"There is a lot of frustration, and there is a lot of anger," Mr. Williams said. "We have all of our resources out in the field right now.''

Mr. Williams said the city's plan to improve drainage in the area includes cleaning Shantee Creek and widening it in the fall.

Earla Braden, whose home on Custer Drive in West Toledo backs up to Shantee Creek on the north side of Laskey Road, said she watched with concern as the muddy storm water nearly crested the creek.

Three weeks ago she lost furniture, carpeting, and paneling when the overflowing creek put 40 inches of water in her basement. Yesterday, it stayed within its banks.

"I was very worried. Today the creek came all the way to the top and the street was flooded," Ms. Braden, 55, said yesterday.

She said she moved to Toledo 14 months ago for a job and flooding was not a problem. She said she's had no contact with city officials and said she believes the creek needs to be deepened.

Police barricades stopped traffic along a 100-yard stretch of Lewis Avenue that was flooded.

Goody's Truck Parts and Equipment Inc., a family-owned business at 5245 Lewis, was flooded by yesterday morning.

Buildings on the property, which includes an office, workshop, and a 25-acre yard with thousands of vehicle parts, had water several feet deep in some areas.

Scott Gressler, 47, one of a dozen workers surveying the yard in knee-high boots, watched a nearly foot-high stream of water rush through the middle of the property toward an overstressed storm drain in the street.

Inside the building, co-owner Scott Liber, 38, stood in his water-soaked office, where the carpeting was torn out after the flooding in June.

Last week, Goody's sent a letter to Mayor Finkbeiner, urging the city to do something about the area's long-standing drainage problems or risk having the business leave the city.

Andrew Berkhoudt, owner of Creative Sign Co., 5313 Secor Rd., poked fun at the regular flooding in front of the business with a yard sign that read:

"For Sale Riverfront Property."

"This is maybe the third time this year it has flooded," Mr. Berkhoudt said.

Secor also was flooded near Sylvania Avenue.

The water stretched from the front door of Mr. Berkhoudt's business to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. He said there were three car accidents just outside his door before noon.

"People slam into that water and the person behind them is doing 50 miles per hour," Mr. Berkhoudt said.

Although there was a steady rain in Sylvania, Jeffrey Ballmer, the city's director of public service, said there were no problems on roadways or in residents' homes.

Though Norwalk, Ohio, was one of the areas hit hard by the June storm, the latest rainfall has been "nothing we can't handle," said Bill Ommert, director of Huron County's emergency management agency.

Since June 1 at Toledo Express, 8.53 inches of rain has been recorded - about 3 1/2 inches more than normal. During the same period last year, only 0.93 of an inch fell, according to the weather service.

Weather service climate models indicate northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are not expected to see an above average or a below average amount of rainfall in the next 30 days, Mr. Astifan said.

Staff writers Eric Lund, Erika Ray, JC Reindl, Janet Romaker, and Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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