August 1, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
77°F
test

Deluged homeowners wait for water to drop; thousands still without power

ELYRIA — Every day is a waiting game for Bill Ostoich, who has frantically been trying to stop water from flooding into his garage and basement at 183 Jerrol Court.

Ostoich said Wednesday it’s a losing battle.

“Every time I think it’s going to let up, it starts raining again,” he said, surveying the damage of the storm that hit Monday night.

The Black River has been a headache for many Elyria residents as constant rainfall caused the water level to reach its highest level at 16.54 feet at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The Black River, which usually sits behind Ostoich’s backyard, flooded up to his garage, creating a mess in his backyard. Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the river went down to 16.06 feet at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Flood stage is 9.5 feet. It is expected to fall to about 13.3 feet this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Tom Kelley, director of Lorain County Emergency Management, said Ostoich’s home is in an area long prone to flooding.

Houses on Woodside and Greenview drives, directly west of the Black River, have been known to experience heavy flooding as well, he said, although residents there, who are used to the floods, haven’t complained.

Ostoich said he was told that there would be some flooding when he moved to the home in June, but he never thought it would be this bad. He’s moved all of his valuables from his basement and garage, which are flooded with 8 to 10 inches of water. In an effort to stop the water flow, he set up a wall of items in his driveway he hoped would stop the incoming river.

It was useless.

Ostoich also contacted Emergency Management, an agency that provides disaster relief services to Lorain County residents. Kelley said the agency would visit Ostoich’s home Wednesday, but there probably wasn’t much that could be done.

“Water’s pretty powerful, so there’s not much you can do to stop it from getting into things,” he said.

Flooding was widespread across the county, with water seeping into basements in homes around Russia Road and Annis Road in South Amherst. LaGrange was also hit hard, said a South Amherst resident.

From Friday to Wednesday, the city recorded 8.27 inches of rainfall, with the most coming Monday (2.04 inches) and Tuesday (3.17).

The city of Vermilion declared a flood watch for low-lying areas south of Liberty Avenue, but despite heavy rainfall rising over the top of Riverside Drive, an evacuation wasn’t needed.

Kelley said the Emergency Management agency has been busy fielding calls from residents, most of whom have reported incidents of minor basement flooding.

Wind damage also plagued Lorain County, with the heaviest winds near the shores of Lake Erie.

On Monday night, the roof of St. Anthony of Padua in Lorain blew off, allowing rain water to leak into the building. The Rev. Richard Hudak said the school is looking to repair the roof, but in the meantime, classes will be moved to St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Harris Road in Sheffield Lake.

Hudak said the school is a little longer drive for Lorain residents, and St. Anthony is currently trying to work out busing arrangements with the Lorain School Board, but parents are eager for their children to be back in school.

The bell tower of the church was under construction already, but repairing damages to the school should take about six to eight weeks, Hudak said. He said students will return to school Monday at the new location.

The Lorain County Red Cross reached out to residents, like Ostoich, who are cold due to a loss of power and heat in their homes.

Ostoich’s power had been out since 10 p.m. Monday, when heavy wind gusts — recorded at 63 mph at the Lorain County airport — knocked a power line over at a home down the street. On Wednesday afternoon, the power line was tied around a pole and sitting in the front yard of a home of Jerrol Court.

Ostoich stood outside bundled up in a heavy coat Wednesday. He remarked that living without heat has been a challenge, but he refused to leave his dog alone in the home.

He had been invited to join other Lorain County residents, without power Wednesday afternoon, at St. John Lutheran Church. The church, 1140 West River Road N., gave residents relief from the cold with warm beverages and heat. Some 4,000 FirstEnergy customers, including 2,659 in Avon Lake and nearly 700 in Lorain, remained without electricity this morning.

Art Mead, Red Cross volunteer disaster chairman, said 20 people had come for coffee and hot chocolate Tuesday, but only a few remained Wednesday.

“We opened up again today, but we’ve got very few people in there,” Mead said around 2 p.m. Wednesday. “Of course, most people are at work or in school.”

Mead said the Red Cross would keep the reception center open until 7 p.m. Wednesday and discuss reopening today if needed.

The Old Firehouse Community Center opened its doors 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for residents who needed to warm up or use the telephone. Although trick-or-treating was rescheduled, the Town Center Community Campus also held a mini-Halloween celebration with “spooky foods.”

Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said Avon Lake’s massive power outages are likely due to wind coming off of Lake Erie. The wind knocked a wire down on Lake Road, and a portion of Walker and Jaycox roads have been closed where a power line is leaning in the roadway.

Zilka said he received an email from FirstEnergy Corp, Ohio Edison’s parent company, stating priority would be given to restoring power in hospitals, schools, police and fire stations, wastewater treatment plants and nursing homes. FirstEnergy expects to have all Lorain County customers’ power back by Friday morning at the latest, according to spokesman Mark Durbin.

The 155 skilled-bed Center Ridge Health Campus in North Ridgeville operated on backup generators from Tuesday until Wednesday afternoon when power was restored, according to administrator Tyne Esarey.

The power outage did not result in anyone having to be relocated, or in any disruption of services or normal operations, Esarey said.

The facility also has 44 assisted-living apartments and a dialysis center, which were powered by generators until power was restored.

Elsewhere in town, some units at the Del Webb Pioneer Ridge senior retirement community off Bender Road remained without power as of Wednesday afternoon. The exact number of units without power was unknown, and it was also unknown how long any housing units had gone without power.

Zilka, who is one of the many Avon Lake residents without power, called the situation “frustrating.”

“We have to deal with the reality that FirstEnergy is doing what they can do to deal with this situation,” he said, adding that residents must remember to stay safe and not touch power lines that are hanging down across the city.

Tree service crews were also busy Wednesday, picking up trees that had fallen on top of houses on West River Road North in Elyria and throughout Lorain.

Two trees had fallen in Ostoich’s neighborhood, one of which has blocked his neighbor’s driveway since Monday night.

Although those in New York and New Jersey have been hit harder by superstorm Sandy, Ostoich called the storm system “scary” and costly for Ohio residents as well. Ostoich said his rent is due today and he’s broke from spending money on fuel for a generator and sump pump.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’ve done all I can, and nothing’s working.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Staff writers Steve Fogarty and Evan Goodenow contributed to this report.