FINDLAY — Solidarity with sandbags.
That’s the idea of Michael Phillips, whose home was invaded by the swollen Blanchard River a couple of blocks away.
PHOTO GALLERY: Findlay floods
“If all of the people of Findlay were to have a token sandbag in front of their house it would speed up the possibility of reducing the severity of floods — a little bit of psychological shame,” said Mr. Phillips, 67, of 337 Wilson St., as he picked up a bucket of cleaning supplies and meals for himself and his wife, Mary, at the American Red Cross Evacuation Center at Glenwood Middle School.
Findlay on Monday was recovering from another periodic drenching by the Blanchard River, which passes through the middle of the city, after big rains fell this weekend.
Mayor Lydia Mihalik said the river crested at 3:30 a.m. Monday at 4.37 feet above flood stage and 2.07 feet above what the National Weather Service considers a major flood. The water was all the way up to the Main Street bridge that passes over the Blanchard.
According to the National Weather Service, the river had dropped late Monday to 14.2 feet, down more than 1 foot from its crest. It was expected to return to within its banks by this morning, the weather service was forecasting.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) toured the flooded areas Monday morning. He drove up from his home near Cincinnati and delivered a basket of food to the Red Cross center. He met with city officials, Hancock County commissioners, and the mayors of Ottawa and Tiffin in the Findlay municipal building.
During that meeting, Senator Portman pledged to press the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite studies needed to develop a flood-mitigation plan for the city.
The study should be completed by late 2014 or early 2015, he said.
“We’re trying to keep them on track to do that,” Mr. Portman said. “This is about Findlay’s future, and not just Findlay but Tiffin and Ottawa.”
He said local governments and taxpayers “stepped up” by paying a significant local share for flood mitigation.
“This could be a model for the rest of the country,” he said because of the local match.
In October, Mr. Portman and fellow Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), wrote to the corps to request funding for the Blanchard River Flood Risk Management Project for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
Many homes and businesses were inundated by water. Mayor Mihalik said at least two homes had major damage.
Findlay emergency personnel were involved in a number of water rescues, mostly “people who didn’t make the right decision, going around barricades.”
“Unfortunately, we’re getting really good at this stuff, because we’ve had a lot of experience,” Mayor Mihalik told the senator during his visit.
One such decision was evident on East Sandusky Street. A green sedan sat unoccupied in the street as the water flowed around its tires.
Ottawa Mayor Dean Meyer, who accompanied the senator’s tour, said it could be one of his village’s worst-ever floods.
“The ultimate goal is to take care of the problem. If we can do a couple of the things they’re recommending, we’d knock it down by a couple of feet,” Mr. Meyer said. One of those recommendations is to lower the approach to the Township Road I-9 bridge northwest of Ottawa. He said the roadbed is too high and contributes to the flooding.
U.S. 224 was closed just west of Findlay, as was State Rt. 37 on the city’s southwest side.
Flood warnings continued for the Blanchard and Auglaize rivers in Putnam County and major highways were expected to reopen this afternoon or evening. Closed were portions of State Routes 634, 190, 114, 189, and 115.
The Red Cross office that serves Hancock, Seneca, and Wyandot counties provided temporary shelter to 13 people. Executive Director Todd James said six families checked into the center and were sheltered at local hotels Sunday night.
“At this point, most of the families have told us they can return to their homes as the flood waters have begun receding,” he said.
The center supplied cleanup kits in 5-gallon buckets that contained cleaning supplies, gloves, garbage bags, and other items. The kits will continue to be available at the Red Cross office, 125 Fair St., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.
Cleanup was taking place all along the muddy Blanchard’s route Monday.
Water poured from a hose connected to a pump in the flooded basement of Nancy Himmler’s home on Wilson Street. She said her son disconnected the water heater and brought it upstairs — the second time he’s done that, but the furnace was still wet so she had no heat.
Ms. Himmler, 68, said she’d sell her house to the government if they would pay her enough to be able to move somewhere else. “There has to be something that can be done. It’s just getting worse,” she said.
In downtown Findlay, a couple of storefronts from the river, Anthony Thepsourinthone helped his uncle clean up the mud off the floor of their grocery, Tee Oriental Foods. The food was saved because they came in on Saturday and jacked the refrigerators up on cinder blocks.
“It wasn’t as bad as last time,” Mr. Thepsourinthone said, pointing to a mark on the wall about 5 feet high, which was a record of the 2007 flood.
His neighbor, Steve Scherger, co-owner of Flag City Gaming, piled up sand bags at the front door and the back door before the flood.
The water just pushed up the cover of a crawl space and came in anyway. Fortunately, the owners had removed or raised high their valuable items and so they suffered little loss.
“We knew it was going to flood. We didn’t know it was going to be this bad,” Mr. Scherger, 24, said as he surveyed the mud-caked floor. “We’ll be here all day cleaning and mopping.”