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Squall floods Port Clinton

Magruder Hospital without power


    Jackson Street in Port Clinton is submerged from heavy rain in Port Clinton.

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Jackson Street in Port Clinton is submerged from heavy rain in Port Clinton.

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PORT CLINTON — A freak squall that hovered over Port Clinton for nearly four hours Sunday dumped 6 to 7 inches of rain, flooding streets, basements, and H.B. Magruder Hospital, prompting the evacuation of patients to other hospitals in the area after it lost power.

City officials had ordered streets closed to traffic and declared a flood emergency through Sunday night.

The warning was lifted and the roadways were reopened by Monday morning, according to Port Clinton police.

"We [didn't] want people driving in the city because it is too dangerous," a dispatcher said.

Workers who measured the rainfall at the Port Clinton Wastewater Treatment Plant said the storm remained over the city of 6,000 residents between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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For some residents, the storm made getting around an exercise in creative driving.

Louie Wargo, a captain and mechanic for the Jet Express ferry, said his otherwise short trip to work involved driving down eight side streets, 10 massive pudd les, and three parking lots to reach his destination.

"I tried to come down Perry Street and saw cars stalled on the road in the water, so I cut down State Street, through a few parking lots, and made it to work," Mr. Wargo said.

"I made it through the intersection by McDonald's and then thought, 'I'm just not going to attempt that.' I was really trying to avoid being one of those stuck cars," Mr. Wargo said from the pilothouse as he pulled one of the Jet's catamarans into the mouth of the Portage River.

The storm was weird enough that weather stations had a hard time tracking its progress.

City crews canvassed the area, closing extremely bad roads to drivers and warning all drivers in general to stay off the roads until the sewer pumps could do their jobs.

"It's unbelievable," said Port Clinton Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester, who was driving around the city checking for problems.

"[The squall] was just hanging over top of us. The pumps are working, they just couldn't keep up with all the rain coming down."

For some, it was a nuisance and potentially dangerous. The Port Clinton Police Department reported cars stalled in the road as they attempted to drive through several feet of water that shorted out electrical systems.

One woman required assistance from officers when her car stalled in front of the department and water began seeping in the windows as she and her infant sat in the car, Mrs. Hymore-Tester said.

Part of H.B. Magruder Hospital was under water and lost electrical power.

Fred Petersen, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency, said the lowest levels of the hospital were under two to three feet of water and its emergency room was closed.

The hospital was without power for several hours and sustained heavy water damage. The hospital emergency room was closed and ambulances were diverted to other area hospitals, authorities said.

Nancy Merk, night nursing supervisor at the hospital, said nearly all of the patients were transferred to Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky and other hospitals in the region.

She said the Port Clinton Fire Department and North Central Emergency Medical Service assisted in transferring patients.

"This was something that we have trained for. We have conducted drills with the fire departments to do this," she said, adding that some patients were discharged and others went to area nursing homes where they had been patients.

Mr. Petersen said the city fire department and other area fire departments brought equipment to the hospital to assist in pumping water out.

The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said the village and township fire departments were told not to transport patients to Magruder Hospital and to take them to other hospitals instead.

The nursing supervisor said the hospital entrance, reception area, and radiology labs received the brunt of the damage.

Mrs. Merk said she didn't know when the emergency room would reopen and operations would return to normal. She said most of the water had been pumped from the hospital and electrical service had been restored.

"We are open for minor things. But we are still diverting squads at this time," she said.

Valerie Witte, 42, of 1216 East Second St., watched the rain fall and fall and fall from her window, rising and rising on her daughter's friend's car parked in front of the house until she called her daughter to come home and get it moved.

"I kept watching out the window and I watched the water rise up to the door," Mrs. Witte said. "I was afraid it was going to get washed away."

Others -- mostly children -- saw the storm as an opportunity to play.

Dylan Ireland, 12, of 213 Beech St., broke out his black rubber boots and neon pink raft and surfed down the streets closed to traffic.

Paige Culver and Hope Thorbahn, both 15, of Port Clinton, hiked up their pants past the knees and engaged in a water fight in the middle of the street in front of young Culver's house on East Second Street.

The teen's step-brother, Landon Witte, 5, threw on his swimsuit -- with sunglasses on -- and ran screeching through the small lake in his yard, declaring it "swim time."

Just miles away, in Marblehead and other Ottawa County villages and towns, rain fell, but it was nothing out of the norm.

Mrs. Hymore-Tester said she talked to Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Toledo) and they were to meet Monday to discuss any available state funding to help with cleanup.

"We will go door to door tomorrow and see what kind of damage people have and see what funds are available," she said.

Jan Hensley, 41, of 306 West Second St., might be one who could take advantage of that.

She was caught off guard when the squall settled over the city. When she checked her basement, water had reached the steps and her holiday decorations and valuables were ruined.

"It came down fast and we are the lowest house on the street. The three houses around us -- all the water runs directly into our yard and under the house," she explained. "I cried earlier when I went into the basement."

She said the city came out a few years ago and put temporary solutions into place, promising to come back and fix the situation.

"That was the last we heard," she said.

Contact Roberta Redfern at: or 419-724-6081.







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