Ohio Town Endures Four-week Flood

April 22, 2008

For the past month, Bob Norman has slept on his couch, waking every 90 minutes to make sure the pump in his basement is keeping floodwater from ruining his furnace.

He’s not the only one losing sleep.

Dozens of homeowners have been draining their basements around the clock for four straight weeks. Others have given up because the water just keeps flowing.

What’s unusual is where the water is coming from _ it’s seeping up from the ground through cracks in the limestone buried beneath this northern Ohio town.

A mix of heavy rains and melting snow in recent months has left the ground saturated and the water has nowhere to go but up. It has buckled concrete basement floors, cracked foundations and closed several streets and roads, including a busy state highway.

How much all of the repairs will cost isn’t known yet. Much of the damage is centered on the north and east sides of the city and its surrounding townships. But most of the city is completely dry.

“I’m sure there are people in our own city who don’t know we have any flooding,” said Mayor David Kile, who has expressed frustration that the city hasn’t received much help from the state or federal government.

Pleas for help haven’t been heard, he said.

“My biggest complaint is nobody from the state took time to come and tour our town,” he said.

Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials have been in the area, said spokeswoman Tamara McBride. “We’re doing all that we can,” she said.

The problem is the area’s unique geological features, she said.

“There’s really no clear solution how to get the people dry,” McBride said.

The state is reviewing a request for aid, but it is only able to reimburse local governments for their costs in battling the flood.

The city of Bellevue alone has spent about $500,000 keeping the water from further flooding homes.

In one neighborhood, foot-wide hoses set up the city snake down the sloping streets. Water trickling out of hoses and plastic pipes flows along the curbs.

Norman’s basement is lined with cracks where the water bubbles up and flows across the floor. He’s managed to keep it from getting too high except for time he forgot to set his alarm and fill his pump with gas.

“You’re not thinking straight after a while,” he said.

Down the street, water spurts through a crack in the basement wall. It looks like someone left a garden hose running.

“It’s like pumping out Lake Erie,” said Roger Jones, who rents the home. “There’s not a thing you can do. Just pray for dry weather.”

Despite all of the misery, the area does not have enough damage to receive federal aid.

That’s hard for Mark Willis to believe.

His three neighbors left their homes after 8 feet of water filled their basements. Water in his home ruined new carpet and his collection of sports memorabilia. And he’s spending $100 a day for gas to keep the pumps running and the water out, shutting them off for even 15 minutes would have his basement filled with 3 feet of water.

“If this isn’t a disaster I don’t know what is,” he said.

Down the road, it’s even worse.

The water pushed up the concrete floor in Kenn Rospert’s basement by about 2 feet. It cracked the drywall on the first floor, too.

He figures he’s already spent $10,000 to buy pumps and dump 200 tons of stone in his driveway to protect his home from more damage.

The water, he said, went down a little last week for the first time in four weeks.

“A month after the fact they’re finally getting the water moving,” he said. “That’s just unacceptable.”

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