MEDINA TWP. — For more than 50 years, Dick Goddard has talked about the weather. On Monday night, the weather almost got the last word.
The Cleveland television meteorologist and author was one of two people rescued from floodwaters that swamped their cars at the Interstate 71 southbound exit to state Route 3 in Medina Township.
“I’m thinking ‘I’m going to buy the farm — what a way to go’ — because the water was up to my neck,” Goddard said in an interview with The Chronicle-Telegram on Tuesday.
Goddard was trapped for about 45 minutes before firefighters in a rubber boat reached his car, broke the window and pulled Goddard out.
He was taken to Medina Hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia.
The ordeal did nothing to dampen his sense of humor.
“I’m 83 — which is only 28 Celsius,” he said.
Goddard gave a vivid description of his encounter with nature’s fury.
He had left work about 10:30 p.m. at WJW-Fox 8 studio in Cleveland, where, of course, “I was on the air talking about all the rain — 4½ inches in Brunswick Hills.”
Despite the storm, he had no problems traveling down Interstate 71.
But coming down the southbound exit ramp to Weymouth Road (state Route 3), he saw the car ahead of him slam into what looked like a raging river.
“There isn’t a river there, but there was last night, and it was really flowing fast,” he said.
Goddard’s car also was trapped by the rapidly rising water.
He watched the driver of the car ahead get out of his vehicle and try unsuccessfully to help Goddard.
“The water was coming up; I couldn’t open the window — the doors were locked and electronics were gone,” he said.
Goddard said he was probably better off staying in the car.
“If I had gotten out of the car, it would have carried me who knows where,” he said.
He called 911, which alerted the Medina post of the Ohio Highway Patrol at 11:17 p.m., according to Lt. William Haymaker, the post’s commander.
“Five fire departments showed up,” Goddard said.
Minutes ticked by as the water in the car steadily rose.
“By the time they got to me, the water was up to my chin,” Goddard said. “They came out on a life raft and knocked out the glass and pulled me out.”
Goddard remembers “shaking like mad — from top to bottom” when he was put on a gurney for the trip to Medina Hospital.
“I was in the water for about 45 minutes and I had hypothermia setting in,” he said. “I came within, I would say, a half-hour of going to that great theme park in the sky. They really saved my life.”
In addition to Medina Township’s Fire Department, five other departments responded, Medina Township Fire Lt. Brian Draiss said.
The crew that got Goddard out of his car was from Medina Township.
“We sent a team out with a boat and were able to retrieve him,” Draiss said.
The rescue of the other driver, who had climbed the tree, took more time.
Tyler Kitson, 21, of Medina Township, said that after trying to open Goddard’s car door, the current swept him underwater.
“When I came up, I saw a tree and tried to angle myself toward it,” he said. “The first tree branch that I grabbed, it snapped on me, and I went back under.
“When I came up, I went to the other tree that I climbed into.”
Kitson said firefighters in the rubber boat first approached him, but he waved them off.
“I told them to go to the car,” he said.
But by the time Goddard was safe, Draiss said the rubber boat could not be used because of the rapidly raising water and rapid current.
Instead, firefighters turned to Medina city’s large ladder truck.
The plan was to extend the ladder horizontally across the water, like a bridge, Medina Fire Chief Bob Painter said. The problem was the 105-foot-long ladder fell about six feet short of the tree.
“We used a regular ladder — what we call a roof ladder — to extend that out another eight feet to get the guy,” Painter said.
Kitson gingerly scrambled across the ladder to the roof of the fire truck.
That’s when the situation took an unusual turn.
“Tyler, you’ve got to come down,” a firefighter said.
“Do not touch me,” Tyler shouted several times. “I don’t feel safe with him touching me.”
When the firefighters insisted, Kitson responded with profanity and threats of a lawsuit.
Pressed to comply, Kitson was taken into police custody before being transported to Medina Hospital for evaluation. He was released after the hospital check.
Kitson said he was grateful to the firefighters who rescued him and blamed his outburst on the emotional strain of the ordeal.
Asked if Kitson might be charged, Medina Township Police Chief David Arbogast said a citation for disorderly conduct was a possibility, but a final decision hadn’t been made.
“The report is not done,” the chief said.
At the hospital, Goddard paid Kitson a visit.
“I met him to thank him for trying to save me,” Goddard said. He added that if Kitson is charged with anything, he would pay Kitson’s fine.