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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Blanchard poised for new mark in floods

Findlay area expects 2 waves of rainfall

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Blanchard River has sent water into Findlay's streets numerous times in the past. The city's worst flood occurred in 1913, when the river crested at 18.5 feet. The Blanchard River has sent water into Findlay's streets numerous times in the past. The city's worst flood occurred in 1913, when the river crested at 18.5 feet.
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FINDLAY -- The Blanchard River could make the history books again -- cresting some 4.5 feet above flood stage by Thursday -- but John LaRiche isn't panicking.

His downtown Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership has been under water on numerous occasions, but he said he can handle the 1.75 inches of rain predicted by the National Weather Service.

"If we get the rain that the Weather Service forecasters predict, we would end up at 15.5 feet by Thursday afternoon," he said. "That being the case, that's not a huge deal. It hits one of my buildings. Now, if the storm stalls over us, it's a whole different story."

Sarah Jamison, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland, said forecasters are expecting two separate waves of shower activity -- the first is to arrive mid to late morning Wednesday and the second should roll in Wednesday night -- with scattered thunderstorms sprinkled in between.

Minor flooding is expected along the Sandusky and Portage rivers; moderate flooding is predicted in Grand Rapids, Ohio, along the Maumee River.

"The Blanchard is where we're looking at major flooding," Ms. Jamison said. "Of course, all that is subject to where those thunderstorms develop."

Findlay Safety Director Jim Barker said that if the river tops out at 15.5 feet, "that would be No. 8 on our Top 10 list. It would cut the city in half again. We would lose Main Street north of the bridge."

City residents were to receive phone calls Tuesday afternoon with a recorded message from Mr. Barker informing them of the forecast and asking them to leave their homes if they are in an area that historically floods.

The American Red Cross planned to open an emergency shelter at the Hancock County Agency on Aging Senior Center on East Melrose Avenue Wednesday.

"As the mayor said, we keep rescuing people from the same places," Mr. Barker said. "We know it's difficult to lock your door and leave your house when you're going to get water, but if it saves us from having to send a firefighter in there in cold floodwaters in a little boat to try to rescue a family that's been rescued before, we're going to urge them to go to the shelter."

The city has been making sandbags available at no cost at the Cube recreation center on North Main Street and downtown at the Parker Lumber building on Crawford Street. They were going fast as home and business owners prepared for the latest round of high water. "Every hour that it doesn't rain is a blessing," Mr. Barker said. "It's that much more water that got out of town."

Findlay's worst flood occurred in 1913 when the Blanchard hit 18.5 feet. That record was followed closely by an August, 2007, flood in which the river crested at 18.46 feet. March 1 the river crested at 16.42 feet, which is listed as the city's sixth worst flood.

Findlay's water woes traditionally flow down river to the Putnam County village of Ottawa, but officials there were cautiously optimistic Tuesday that they would be spared any serious problems this time.

"While we're keeping an eye on our gauges and the National Weather Service forecasting, it appears we should not be in any jeopardy of any moderate to major flooding," Jeff Loehrke, community development director, said, then added, "That could all change in a heartbeat."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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