VERMILION — As the Vermilion River continued to crest Saturday, six families who failed to heed evacuation warnings were rescued by the Vermilion Fire Department and other local emergency management agencies.
Fire Chief Chris Stempowski said a text alert was sent out to Vermilion residents at 3:03 p.m. Friday notifying them of an ice jam along the Vermilion River.
At 11 p.m., the Vermilion River crested, and residents were told to take appropriate precautions.
“By (midnight), Riverside Drive was all under water,” Stempowski said Saturday.
The first rescue call was dispatched at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Rescue boats were used and the residents were treated by EMS and released.
According to Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan, all the residents who evacuated sought shelter elsewhere.
Bulan said the American Red Cross has offered its services, as well as Lorain County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Until the waters recede, no one will know the extent of the damage from the flooding, Bulan said. “It’s just a ‘wait and see’ effort,” she said Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon, Riverside Drive remained barricaded and closed. Playgrounds were underwater, noticeable only by monkey bars inches above the water. Traffic slowed on Vermilion Road as motorists tried to catch a glimpse of the flooded street.
While some residents were able to move their vehicles to higher ground, others were water-logged in driveways.
Vermilion Road resident Dan Bestor said this is the highest he has seen the river crest in the two years he has lived in his home. His backyard overlooks Riverside Drive.
As Bestor stood on his balcony, he said that while residents of Riverside Drive received alerts of the ice jam at Mill Hollow, no one seemed to believe the flooding would actually happen until it was too late.
“The people in that green house down there, they had to be evacuated this morning,” Bestor said, pointing to a home on Riverside Drive.
Bestor said everyone on the river helps each other when Mother Nature wreaks havoc.
Earlier in the day, Bestor offered his driveway as a place where neighbors could store vehicles. He tied a neighbor’s boat to a post before it could be swept away by the fast-moving waters.
But for one resident and his wife, protecting their family’s property was more important than evacuating. On Saturday evening, Larry and Clare Uebbing remained inside their home on Riverside Drive.
“We are pretty used to it and the water is not in the house … because I built it that way. Now, the garage has water in it,” Larry Uebbing said.
When asked why he and his wife did not evacuate, Larry Uebbing had one answer: “I stayed to protect my property.”
According to the National Weather Service in Cleveland, at 5 p.m. Saturday, the flood stage was 15.5 feet.
“The river is being impacted by two ice jams. One is located along the railroad bridge in Vermilion and the second is located at Mill Hollow,” the National Weather Service stated in a press release.
The river will continue to fluctuate over the next 24 to 48 hours due to the ice jam.
According to the NWS, more property could be impacted and damaged should the ice jam break.