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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Teams fan out in Port Clinton to assess flash-flood damage

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Port Clinton firefighters examine water damage to H. B. Magruder Hospital, which  transferred three patients to other hospitals and discharged three. Port Clinton firefighters examine water damage to H. B. Magruder Hospital, which transferred three patients to other hospitals and discharged three.
PORT CLINTON NEWS HERALD Enlarge

PORT CLINTON -- Teams of assessors began going door to door in this northwest Ohio city Monday to determine the extent of damage from Sunday's flash flooding.

Between 5 and 7 inches of rain pounded the city throughout the day Sunday, flooding basements and sending water into parts of H.B. Magruder Hospital. Port Clinton Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester said the rain was unrelenting, and the city's storm sewers simply couldn't keep up.

"I looked up at the sky a couple of times and just said, 'Stop,' " she said.

While Ms. Hymore-Tester said the flash flooding was the worst the city had experienced since the Fourth of July storm of 1969, Ottawa County EMA Director Fred Petersen said Monday that he did not anticipate that damages would reach the threshold to trigger state or federal assistance.

"There are four different levels of damage -- affected, minor, major, and destroyed," Mr. Petersen explained. "There's a scale for how we judge that."

While officials would have to show that at least 25 properties sustained major damage or were destroyed, Mr. Peter- sen said, "In this case, what we're seeing right now are a lot of affected and minor, very few major, and probably no destroyed."

Seasonal residences are not counted, nor are properties insured for flood damage. Mr. Petersen said some residences and businesses had water in their basements, garages, or into the first floors. At the local hospital, ankle-deep water flowed into the main lobby, and the imaging department had about an inch of water.

Elisabeth Brand, spokesman for Magruder, said that of the six patients in the 25-bed hospital, three were discharged and three were transferred to other area hospitals. The emergency department remained operational, she said, although it was forced to operate with battery-powered, back-up equipment and lights for about three hours while the electricity was shut down.

"During that three-hour period, our emergency department treated approximately eight people with minor injuries, and we were still accepting minor-injury patients at that time," she said.

Other than cleanup and equipment checks, things were back to normal Monday at the hospital.

Mayor Hymore-Tester said the city has had occasional flash flooding over the years, although Port Clinton has done several things to remedy the problem, such as upgrading its wastewater treatment plant and separating sanitary and storm sewers. She said she has talked with the Ottawa County engineer about the possibility of cleaning out ditches near the city, something that could help in future flash flood events.

"When it comes down real hard is when we have the issues," she said. "The pumps were all working, but when it comes down that hard, there's no place for the water to go."

Sarah Jamison, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland, said between 5 and 7 inches of rain fell over Port Clinton beginning about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and lasting into the early afternoon. Similar amounts of rain fell Monday morning along the eastern shore of Lake Erie in Ashtabula and Lake counties.

"What really enhanced this rainfall is that we're at that peak time of year for flash flooding off Lake Erie because the lake is so warm," Ms. Jamison said. "That makes rain what we call very efficient so when it rained, it rained."

Ottawa County residents who need to report damage are asked to call United Way at 211 or the Port Clinton police department, 419-734-3121.

Port Clinton is about 40 miles east of Toledo.

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



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