Storms In The Forecast Loom Over Flood-Soaked Ohio Village

Coast Guard Photos of Ottawa
Coast Guard Photos of Ottawa

OTTAWA, Ohio (AP) - Weekend rain threatened to keep floodwater from receding, just as hundreds of displaced residents were hoping to return to their homes.

Historic flooding in this northwest Ohio village made it nearly impossible to go from one end of town to the other Friday.

Numerous leaks in the public water system were reported - the saturated ground may have caused water pipe joints to separate, public safety officials said. The tap water may also be contaminated, and residents were advised to boil it.

More storms were in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday, leaving up to a 1/2 inch of rain in parts of Ottawa, the National Weather Service said.

The rain could be enough to delay the floodwater's retreat, said Terry Click, a weather data specialist with the agency.

Nearly a week of powerful storms, heavy rain and devastating flooding across the upper Midwest has damaged hundreds of homes and has been blamed for at least 17 deaths.

Flooding stretched across an 80-mile path through Ohio this week, leading Gov. Ted Strickland to declare a state of emergency in nine Ohio counties.

Don Croy of Ottawa loaded cleaning supplies and bottled water from the American Red Cross and into his motorboat Friday and then floated away.

It was the only way he could get to his house.

While much attention has been focused on the hard-hit town of Findlay, where rescuers had plucked hundreds of people from their homes this week, hundreds more were still unable to get home in nearby Ottawa, which was soaked with floodwater from the Blanchard River.

"We don't know what the real world's like," Croy said. In his house were three inches of water that ruined new cherry floors and cabinets that cost $55,000.

No one was allowed within several blocks of downtown where water had reached as high as the front seat of a limousine at a funeral home, said owner Jeff Heitmeyer.

A day earlier, water surrounded homes in at least two-thirds of the town of about 4,300 people, said Fire Chief Ron Brinkman.

Authorities spent much of Friday trying to chase kayakers and other sightseers out of the swirling floodwater. "It's way too treacherous," he said.

Water that lapped at homes near the river did start to slowly go down a few inches.

"I've seen a couple of decks float by, a kid's basketball pole," said Mark Knueven. "You sit and watch it go by."

Diane Deitering, manager of a credit union, was one of the few people able to begin cleaning up her office. She said all the closed roads turned her short drive into a 45-minute detour, but believes the worst will come when the water is gone.

"The devastation we haven't seen yet," she said.

Strickland and other officials flew over three of those counties Thursday.

Flood victims will be eligible for low-interest loans of up to $250,000 through a state program.

The flooding has blamed for two deaths in Ohio. A 92-year-old man died Thursday after his car was trapped in floodwaters near Findlay. Earlier in the week, a Mansfield man died after flood water knocked over a gas can, igniting a fire.

Water has receded in Mansfield where the city's post office lost about 20 of its trucks, and at least 100 homes were flooded. Volunteers and city officials will be mopping up and assessing damage through the end of next week, said Mayor Lydia Reid.

"We've got it pretty well under control," she said.