PAINESVILLE — One year after flooding devastated Lake County in Northeast Ohio, about 100 people haven’t been able to return to their homes.
Crystal Forbes’ family is among them. As she walked around the shell of what once was her condominium on the bank of the Grand River, she reminisced about the damage wrought by the third-wettest July in 124 years.
“It was hard to come back here at first. It was very upsetting,” said Forbes, who lived with in-laws for several months before getting another home on higher ground. “It’s been incredibly frustrating. Most people were not as lucky as us. We are on solid footing, but many people are still in temporary housing.”
Mold is seeping through the home at Millstone condominiums and “no trespassing” signs haven’t kept out vandals who have shattered windows and scrawled graffiti. Forbes, who is still struggling to pay the mortgage on her condemned property, says she’ll never live near water again.
Doug Elliott, Painesville’s assistant city manager, said the city is working with various government agencies to raise $8 million to buy the Millstone and neighboring Gristmill condominiums, demolish them and make a park.
Both complexes were submerged when the Grand River swelled to 20 feet, more than twice its flood stage.
Elliot said the area should never have been residential.
A report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior says the river swelled nine times its normal capacity to a record-breaking 36,000 cubic feet per second. The 17-page report said two rounds of thunderstorms drenched Lake County, dousing Painesville with 11 inches of rain in 48 hours.
While Painesville bore the worst of it, other communities suffered as well. Marinas and roads in Fairport Harbor and Grand River were washed away and under water. Willoughby and Concord and Madison townships are waiting for more than $350,000 each in federal aid to fix bridges and waterlogged homes.
Today, the river barely quietly flows past the mud-caked buildings on which epitaphs are scrawled: “Here lies Mill Stone, RIP 7/28/06.”
Painesville awaits final approval on the money for the proposed park. “It will be a beautiful ending,” Elliott said.