September 23, 2014

Elyria
Sunny
68°F
test

Soaking, sweltering

Heavy heat follows heavy rain in county, across state

An isolated thunderstorm that hovered over the county Tuesday morning dumped almost 4 inches of rain in some spots, soaked basements, flooded roadways and turned parked cars into flotation devices.

The owner and patrons of the Three Star Restaurant look out on a flooded East 28th Street. 

The sudden downpour shocked Nancy Gonzalez, of Lorain, out of a sound sleep and sent her running to her windows-left-open parked car only to find that the console cup holder — and her car — was full of water.

“I couldn’t believe how much water was in my car,” said Gonzalez, of West 23rd Street. “It was such a pretty-sounding rain, but now I can see that there was nothing pretty about this rain.”

And while the storm pelted some areas of the county — some areas were without electricity for a couple of hours, others saw far more rain than could be absorbed — it barely bothered others.

The only real injury that was reported happened after the brunt of the storm had departed. In the early evening, a male employee at Wellington’s Forest City Technologies was struck by lightning, company employees said.

Workers said the man was taking a break by a large tree outside the Clay Street facility when a lightning bolt hit the tree and then hit him. The jolt stunned the man, but he was still standing and conscious after the encounter, his co-workers said.

Storm events:

• The East 21st Street bridge underpass in Lorain was closed until the water subsided.
• State Route 57 flooded near Midway Mall. It remained open.
• Interstate 90 flooded. It remained open.
• Car lost control and ends up in median around 9:30 a.m. on Interstate 90.
• Car hits guard rail on Interstate 90 at 10:22 a.m.
• Tractor-trailer breaks down on Interstate 90 around 11 a.m., slowing traffic.
• Sheffield responds to a flooded basement call at 9:46 a.m.
• Lightning strikes close to home on 200 block of Ohio Street and knocks out power. Firefighters could not find the exact location of the strike.
• Avon Lake police and firefighters dealt with a water main break at Redwood and Oakwood drives. The area was blocked off late Tuesday as crews worked to repair it.
— Ben Norris

The man, whose name was not available, was taken to Allen Medical Center, where he was in good condition later and was expected to be released Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Gary Garnet said the hit-and-miss nature of the storm that hit Tuesday perfectly defines an isolated storm.

“It varied from a shower in some places to a heavy thunderstorm in others,” Garnet said. “It moved slow and sort of settled for at least an hour over the north-northeast corner of the county.”

And, if you want to know who or what to blame, you can thank the warm weather.
Isolated thunderstorms are common this time of the year, Garnet said. They move in fast and strong, dumping a lot of water over a short period of time.

“As long as we stay in this warm, sticky air-mass pattern, there is the potential for severe isolated thunderstorms and flash floods,” he said, adding that today’s forecast has about a 40 percent chance of a thunderstorm.

However, if you are among the dozens still drying out after Mother Nature unleashed her fury, blaming it on the sunshine offers no comfort.

Busy, but good

It was a busy morning only made more hectic by the heavy rain.

The only silver lining: Only one person, said Lorain fire Capt. Jeff Fenn.

“We’re thankful whenever we can say that,” Fenn said.

Firefighters were busy between 9 and 10 a.m., exactly when the city was getting pounded. First, they went to a smoky city treasurer’s office after a leak on the second floor dripped water on an electrical motor in the boiler room.

Then, they were sent to a home on the 500 block of Washington Avenue that was struck by lightning. No one was hurt at the house, but the power surge fried several small appliances, Fenn said.

Next, the Oak Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center called to say rain water was creeping into the dining hall from the courtyard and they needed sandbags to stop the flow.

From there, it was on to East 28th Street near Pearl Avenue where 2 to 3 feet of water was pooling.

“I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes, but the water was at least up to the headlights of semi-trucks. As they drove through, the waves pushed cars all over the place,” Fenn said. “There were multiple stranded cars in the area.”

Most people just left their disabled vehicles, but Fenn said at least one woman had to be rescued from her car. Luckily, it was stuck in only about 2 feet of water. Firefighters were able to pull the woman onto a fire truck and take her to a nearby church.

Customers and employees of the Three Star Restaurant watched all the excitement unfold.

“It was so scary. Every time a car or big truck went by, it pushed water into my door, owner Mary Ann Dreling said about an hour after the water receded. “I kept thinking I should just close. When I woke up this morning I had no idea it was going to rain this bad.”

No one expected the rain would come down as quickly as it did, said Lorain police Officer Ray Farley.

As the area’s community resource officer, Farley checked on many businesses Tuesday and warned a lot of people to think before driving through high water.

Farley is also on the city’s water rescue team and was happy his skills were not tested.

“When it comes down this fast, all you can do is give out warnings and pray that nothing happens,” he said.

The morning’s only non-weather related call came in the form of a fire at a three-story 12-unit apartment building on the 2600 block of West Erie Avenue. Fenn said 57-year-old Gladys Fonseca was using a candle to provide light when she accidentally set her blanket on fire just before 10 a.m.

The damage was limited to her apartment, but smoke filled the other units, forcing firefighters into rescue mode when they arrived to find people still inside the building. Fonseca was taken to Community Health Partners for treatment of smoke inhalation.

‘Oh, my God, not again’

To say it was coming down in buckets was an understatement.

For some Lorain residents, Tuesday’s storm was a disaster they are still cleaning up after.

“I looked outside and it looked like an ocean out there,” said Louise Calhoun of the 1400 block of West 23rd Street. “Water was on both sides of the sidewalk all around my house. I just said, ‘Oh, my God, not again,’ and closed my door.”

Calhoun and dozens of other residents in her neighborhood moaned the words “not again” because each time heavy rain drenches their street, it doesn’t recede without backing up into their basements.

Soon after the rain stopped falling, Red Cross volunteers took to the streets — handing out clean-up kits to help folks clean up their flooded basements, said Art Mead Sr. of the American Red Cross Disaster Services. 

So far, about 50 kits have gone out to residents on Lorain’s southwest side.

“We have gone into these areas before so we know exactly who needs help,” Mead said. “Our main concern is if anyone used the basement as living quarters. We want residents to get those areas clean and sanitized as soon as possible to stop mold.”
Steve Burnett, also of the 1400 block of West 23rd Street, said he knows the routine well.

“It happens so frequently that we say it’s only 10 inches down there, and that’s suppose to be a good thing,” he said as he sloshed around his water-soaked basement in bright yellow knee-high rain boots. “If you live on this block, these boots are mandatory.”

The flooding doesn’t make living on the street fun, but what’s a longtime resident to do?

“I’ve been through this at least 10 times, and it never gets better,” Calhoun said. “All the water that was in the street is now in my basement."

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Staff writer Shawn Foucher contributed to this story.

 


 

Rain roundup

Notable events from Tuesday’s severe storm: 

• World Animal Foundation in Vermilion
The World Animal Foundation is used to rescuing animals, but it had to scramble to rescue some of its own caged felines when water levels began to rise in its building.
Gary Barnby, president of the foundation, said two adult cats and a kitten had to be rescued from their cages when more than 2 feet of water surged into the foundation’s basement offices on Liberty Avenue in Vermilion.
The felines were put in foster homes, but files, computers, educational materials and animal supplies were among the items damaged.
Barnby said only $5,000 of the anticipated $25,000 in damages would be covered by the foundation’s insurance, and the organization will have to start from scratch before it’s able to reopen.
“We’ve never had a problem before,” he said. “We’re trying to get the water out and are doing what we can.”
Concerned residents are asked to visit the Vermilion Web site, Vermilion.net.

• Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake
Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake was closed for four hours Tuesday after water seeped into several areas of the plant after 9 a.m.
Crews were sent home halfway through their eight-hour shift, and production was ceased, according to Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari.
“The heavy rain did interfere with production, but we’ll be back up and running (Tuesday evening),” she said.
Mary Springowski, a 16-year Union Auto Workers member, was one of the Ford employees working when the thunderstorm swept through.
She said the crackling of thunder put the worst-case scenario into everyone’s mind.
“At first we thought something had happened at the plant,” she said. “Then we saw the lightning, and the water started coming up from the storm sewers. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

• Former Carlisle flood victim
Former Carlisle Township resident Dale Maynard saw his Greenview Drive residence fill up 12 times during the four years he and his family had lived there.
When his home flooded in the melting snow waters earlier this year, the family decided it would move into a rental house in Amherst to wait for federal funding to buy their property.
But as the rain continued to fall Tuesday, Maynard said instincts told him to do what he’d always done before.
“The first thing I did was call my old neighbors to make sure they were awake,” he said. “I wanted to make sure if they had to get out, they could.”

• Lorain flood victim likes what he’s seeing
Scott Bakalar’s home on West 21st Street in Lorain was plagued so often by rain water that everything of value in his basement now stands at least 18 inches above the floor.
With two sump pumps ready, and another one on loan from a neighbor, Bakalar said he was somewhat surprised, and even more relieved, when only
2 inches made it into his basement.
“It’s crept up 6 inches at a time over the last three years,” he said. “But this is the first instance of water in my basement over the past year. At a rate like this, I’ll take it.”
— Stephen Szucs