Friday, September 22, 2017 Elyria 78°


Still sopping: Tuesday’s storms inundated basements, but damage doesn’t qualify for federal aid


Some Lorain County residents were left with flooded basements and damage after a series of severe thunderstorms swept through the area and dumped 2 inches to 4 inches of rain.

The Lorain County Office of Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security surveyed the county Wednesday, compiling information on storm damage. Jurisdictions were asked to supply information regarding flooding, roadways that were still closed, damage to roadways or culverts, public facilities or private structures that were damaged or have become uninhabitable.

Tom Kelley, director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said the survey was completed to determine whether the county could receive state or federal assistance, but the damage didn’t reach the required amount of uninsured losses to receive funding.

He said parts of the county were hit hard, however.

Areas in Columbia Township on Sprague Road near Olmsted Falls, and in the Muirwood Village area of North Ridgeville received heavy flooding, likely due to a backup of the storm sewers, which couldn’t take the heavy rainfall.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland reported that the heaviest rainfall was recorded in Columbia Station, which was measured at 3.8 inches. However, Doppler radar estimates showed several areas in eastern Lorain County received more than 4.5 inches of rain, according to a press release from the Lorain County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

During the rainfall, the Columbia Township Fire Department completed several rescues of people who were trapped in their vehicles in high water. The Columbia Township Fire Department reported some erosion to North West River Road because of the storm.

Despite the heavy rainfall, Kelley said reports of damage to homes were minimal.

“We’ve only received a handful,” he said. “We’re talking three to four reports of water in the home.”

Brentwood Village resident Sue Lawwill said her basement was flooded with approximately 4 feet of water after the storm.

“It was bad. It was coming in the windows,” she said. “My washer was floating.”

Lawwill spent Wednesday waiting for the water to drain from her basement. The damage was estimated at $10,000, but her insurance won’t cover it.

“We don’t have flood insurance, sewer backup insurance or sump pump insurance,” she said. “Who would think in Brentwood that you would need flood insurance?”

Carie McKinney, of Elyria, who experienced some basement flooding, said Roosevelt Avenue has been known to flood in the past. She blamed the city’s “archaic” drainage system, which she said she has addressed at Elyria City Council meetings.

“The water that we’ve been getting can be prevented if the city updates their sewer system,” she said.

McKinney said she’s spent up to $15,000 on upgrades to her home, including putting in a backflow valve, waterproofing with a sump pump and fixing the driveway, but she still gets rain in the basement.

“There’s no way we’re going to be able to sell our homes because of the flooding,” she said.

Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the issue on Roosevelt Avenue is being addressed, and the city has money budgeted to line the pipes in that area, which she said is more cost-effective than replacing pipes that may have cracks.

“Basically it’s like putting in a new pipe,” she said.

Siwierka said lining the pipes will cost $350,000 to $500,000, but it would be a huge cost to update the city’s combination sanitary/storm sewer system, which was built years ago. She said there was little to be done to control the large amount of rainfall that caused the Black River to rise approximately 7 feet in five hours.

“We had a lot of water,” she said. “In a short period of time, that’s next to impossible (to control).”

In North Ridgeville, City Hall received about 50 calls reporting water across roads, as well as isolated incidents of basements flooding.

But the volume of calls and number of problem spots around town was far less severe than in recent years, according to officials.

“We did have some flooding in the Pitts-Gina area but it wasn’t the event we had in February a couple of years ago,” Safety-Service Director Jeffry Armbruster said.

Severe flooding stemming from a similar deluge of rain over a short period of time forced the evacuation of several dozen residents by boat from the Pitts Boulevard-Gina Drive neighborhood in February 2011.

On Wednesday, reports in North Ridgeville of water in basements came from the Gina-Pitts area, the Waterbury subdivision off Chestnut Ridge Road, as well as isolated incidents on Evergreen Drive, and Lou-Ann, according to Assistant City Engineer Cathy Becker.

Becker, who has kept track of rain locally for more than 15 years, said her backyard rain gauge reflected 4.75 inches of rain fell from 4 p.m. Tuesday through early Wednesday.

“I’ve never seen this much from one storm,” Becker said.

Service Department crews worked all night Tuesday into Wednesday morning cleaning ditches and helping to clear flooded streets.

Both Armbruster and Service Department Foreman Al Swindig pointed to the recently installed 7.1 million-gallon retention basin near Highland Drive for keeping flooding and high water in that area in check.

Located a short distance south of Mills Road, Highland Drive has been the scene of substantial flooding headaches in the past due to a culvert with a low spot that tends to overflow from fast-running stormwater.

The retention basin built which was built last year reduced potential flooding by taking stormwater overflow from the culvert and holding it for a slow release into a ditch nearby.

The ditch in turn takes the water to Mills Road, where it travels to the French Creek in Avon, which eventually dumps into Lake Erie.

An emailed photo of the retention basin snapped about 8 a.m. Wednesday by resident Rick Szalkowski was accompanied by comments that noted Highland incurred some street flooding Tuesday night “but not as bad as it could have been. Looks to me like this basin has helped some.”

In addition to heavy flooding, Ohio Edison reported scattered power outages across the county.

At noon Wednesday, the number of reported outages was 6,107, according to Ohio Edison’s website. At 5:30 p.m., there were 3,801 outages in the county.

Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino said power was knocked out at the police station at 10:10 p.m. Tuesday. Four auxiliary officers were called in to direct traffic after several traffic signals went out.

North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow said a tree fell near Dyke Avenue and some roads were blocked, but he reported no problems Wednesday afternoon.

Sarah Jamison, hydrologist for the National Weather Service of Cleveland, said Lorain County residents may not have much respite from the rain as at least another 1 to 2 more inches of rain is estimated to fall this morning.

“We’ve got a low pressure storm system coming in,” she said. “The potential is there for some more flash floods.”

Staff writer Steve Fogarty contributed to this story. Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or

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