Flood Waters Receding in Ottawa

OTTAWA -- After a week of wet weather and flooding, relief is slowly coming to Ottawa in Putnam County.  The Blanchard River crested Thursday afternoon at almost 32 feet, just shy of the all-time record set in 1913.  By late Thursday night, the water had gone down about three inches but 70 percent of the village is likely still underwater.

Ottawa's fire chief says his department has rescued everyone that needed help in homes all over Ottawa, and now rescue crews are hoping the rain stays away.  The fire chief says crews there plucked people from more than 400 homes over the past three days.

On Thursday night, the best way to get around was in the bucket of a front-end loader, with tires tall enough to keep you out of the flooding.  Others used canoes or rowboats.  Bob Seifker was out in a boat, checking on his flooded rental properties.  "Structurally, they're standing there, but there's a lot of water damage and a lot of time to repair windows, siding, a lot of things are broken up, so it's going to take some time," said Seifker.

"It was up above the siding this morning," said Lori Trame, who was evacuated from her home.  "I can see below the siding now, so that's a good sign... It's going down versus still going up."

Once the water recedes, there will still be a massive cleanup in Ottawa.  "It really seems that in this small town, everybody's working together," said flood victim Phil Vance.  "I've heard a lot of stories where people were staying with other people... offering whatever they could to help."

A lot of debris is already appearing in the areas where the water is gone.  The fire chief also warns the water is contaminated with oil, gasoline, and raw sewage, and residents should stay out of it.

Count on News 11 to follow the story in Ottawa as it develops.

Meanwhile, upstream in Findlay, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison got a firsthand look at the damage on Thursday.  The two toured the downtown area where the Blanchard River still covered several blocks following this week's storms.

Federal officials say they'll begin assessing the damage on Saturday, starting the process to make federal aid available.

The Maumee River is still very close to flood stage.  People living in low-lying areas like Waterville in western Lucas County say they're keeping their eyes on the river, but aren't too concerned just yet.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is sending Ohio National Guard troops to the flood-stricken city of Shelby.  About 20 soldiers are expected to help with traffic control and security in the town.

Posted by AEB