Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Elyria 51°


Residents rescued, roads closed after severe storms move through Lorain County


By Evan Goodenow and Anna Merriman

Chronicle-Telegram staff

An intense storm swamped Lorain County Monday.

Basements and first floors of homes flooded, stranded drivers had to be rescued from their cars and there was a report of a funnel cloud briefly touching down in North Ridgeville. However, no major injuries or fatalities had been reported early this morning.

Three to five inches of rain fell between 5 and 10 p.m. Monday, said John Mayers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland. Mayers said the funnel cloud was reported to have touched down about 7:55 p.m., but it couldn’t be confirmed.

The North Ridgeville Fire Department used four boats, three loaned to them by the county, to rescue people from cars and homes, said Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bement. He said the areas where rescues occurred included Highland Drive, Mills Creek Lane, Gina Drive and Pitts Boulevard.

Bement said three drivers had to be rescued and dozens of people were rescued from their homes. About 11 p.m., residents were being rescued from their homes on Sandstone Lane and Willowbrook Road near Center Ridge Road.

“Their first floors are flooded, so we’re getting them out of the second floors,” Bement said.

Bement said residents were bused to Fields United Methodist Church, 34077 Lorain Road. Rescues concluded at 1 a.m. in North Ridgeville, he said.

North Ridgeville’s fire department was among many kept busy by the storm after 6:30 p.m. when rain intensified. After a tornado warning about 6:45 p.m., Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer offered people leaving a City Council Streets and Utilities Committee meeting the option of sheltering in the City Hall basement. About a mile away at Lakeview Park, Kady Nelson of Amherst was parked and watching for funnel clouds on Lake Erie.

Nelson said she was on her way to get ice cream when she got a tornado warning on her phone. She decided to watch for a tornado at the park with her friend, Sarah Matthewson. “We thought it would be cool,” said Nelson, who said she is transferring from Lorain County Community College to Ohio State University to study atmospheric science in the fall.

However, the storm was uncool to Al Dgonc, 914 Mildred Ave., Lorain. Clad in a poncho in a heavy downpour about 7:40 p.m., Dgonc used a rake to try to unclog the sewer drain outside his home at the intersection of West Ninth Street.

Dgonc said his basement often floods when sewer drains back up in heavy rain. “If I can keep it open, it doesn’t back up,” he said.

On West Erie Avenue by the entrance to Lakeview Park about 8 p.m., two westbound cars were stuck in water up to the wheel wells.

“It’s crazy,” 18-year-old Abraham Rodriguez said as he stared at the cars. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

By 8 p.m., Ritenauer said Lorain had seen “massive” flooding. “The sewer system has reached capacity,” he said.

Elyria’s sewers also were overwhelmed, said Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka. She said Elyria experienced fallen power lines, flooded cars and streets.

The Black River was estimated to reach 17 feet early this morning, according to the Weather Service. By 8 p.m. Monday, entire sections of Gulf Road, West River Road and state Route 57 in Elyria were under water.

“We can’t keep up with this,” Siwierka said. “No storm system can take this amount.”

While the rain diminished after 10 p.m., flooding remained immense. Vermilion had entire sections of road and residential areas flooded. Police called South Shore Courts “a lake.” The Vermilion River was expected to reach nearly 13 feet early this morning, according to the Weather Service.

Rural areas also flooded including Angela Boggs’ Eaton Estates home off state Route 83 in Eaton Township. Boggs said most of her belongings were under water.

Boggs said she and her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend had been shoveling water out of the house for almost three hours. “It’s coming in the back door like a waterfall,” she said.

Siwierka, who remained in her office late Monday contacting various city workers, said the flooding was the worst she’d seen since Superstorm Sandy. “It’s too much water for the system,” she said.

Elyria police Sgt. Lee Frank concurred. “You name it, it’s everywhere,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com.

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