ELYRIA — Lorain County commissioners Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the county because of the heavy storms that led to widespread flooding last week.
Alice Webber, emergency operations manager for the county Emergency Management Agency, said the amount of rainfall May 12 and 13 meant it was being considered a 500-year storm.
“It’s the worst one I’ve been through in 23 years,” she said.
Commissioner Ted Kalo said in North Ridgeville, which was particularly hard-hit and saw some residents evacuated from their homes by boat, the storm might have risen to the level of a 1,000-year flood.
Webber said the flooding caused extensive damage throughout the county, including destroying several homes. Many homeowners, including all three county commissioners, saw their basements flood.
The damage wasn’t confined to homes.
North Ridgeville High School had water as high as 2½ to 3 feet inside the building, prompting the school district to cancel classes during the cleanup.
According to the National Weather Service’s website, the Cleveland area received 2.64 inches of rain May 12, although rain totals were higher or lower in some places. There also was a confirmed tornado with 86 mph winds that touched down for about five minutes in Eaton Township.
County officials have been gathering reports of storm damage with an eye toward recording enough damage so that they will be able to apply for disaster aid through the state. Webber said that so far more than 1,500 callers have reported damage.
She said the damage that can be counted toward receiving state aid must have come from structural damage or 18 inches or more of water inside a home that includes a living area, which means for a flooded basement or a split level house to count there must have been a bedroom in the flooded portion of the house.
The county number that was set aside to receive damage reports, (440) 329-5117, was so overwhelmed with calls last week that it often rang busy and the voicemail quickly filled up.
Commissioner Tom Williams suggested that the EMA put together a way for people to report damage online, but Webber said that wasn’t necessary because of the hotline the agency has in place.
In other business, the commissioners approved taking out a $2.2 million bond to pay for repairs at various county facilities.
County Administrator Jim Cordes said the county has delayed maintenance in recent years in an effort to save money, but some of the work needed to be done.
“It’s things that needed to be taken care of,” Cordes said. “Roofs don’t last forever, (and) buildings need work.”