Floodwaters are gone; trauma of event isn't

SANDUSKY It's been a little more than a year since floods soaked Erie and Huron counties, leaving ho
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



It's been a little more than a year since floods soaked Erie and Huron counties, leaving homes and streets closed.

Kathie Mueller remembers her devastation when the newly carpeted family room of her house on Patten Tract Road flooded.

Members of her family bailed water with buckets for four hours to keep the water down.

"We lost everything in the family room," Mueller said. "We've sure been through it. Only in May did we really start to getting our house back in shape. It's just really been hard."

Since the flood, Mueller has repaired the damages to her home and bought a propane generator to back up the family's back-up sump pump.

"You try all of these fail safes, but now we have to worry if we have enough propane," Mueller said. "It's almost like post traumatic stress disorder. Every time it rains heavily, you relive what you went through and you're fearful. It never goes away."

Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch said that Norwalk, one of the hardest-hit areas, has aesthetically been repaired, but the memory still lingers.

"I believe most of the businesses have pretty much restored what was damaged," Lesch said. "I don't think people have forgotten. It was really a frightening day for people, and I'm sure they've not forgotten about it."

Area agencies have also made some changes in the past year to ensure they and the community will be better prepared the next time.

"It's not 'Will a flood occur again?' it's 'When a flood like that will occur again?'" said Eric Dodrill, Erie Soil and Water Conservation District director.

Dodrill said a flood is always possible, and it will take a variety of initiatives to have a better outcome next time.

"As storms intensify, for whatever reason, we're going to see damage. Through proper planning, adoption of zoning codes and awareness, we will keep people safer," Dodrill said.

Dodrill and the agency have been pushing to set up a county-wide drainage utility.

"At present, there is nothing in place that has real authority over drainage," he said. "It would allow funding for a staff to look at and prioritize drainage needs throughout the county."

The agency has also added a new grant-funded position since last year's flood. Bre Hohman is the Firelands Coastal Tributaries Watershed Coordinator. She works to develop watershed action and management plans for the area, as well as educate and help instill watershed stewardship in residents.

A watershed is the area of land that catches rain or snow and drains or seeps into another body of water.

Hohman said it's important for people to understand how their watershed works and how development affects drainage.

"The more impermeable structures we build that doesn't allow water to soak through, the frequency and intensity of our floods will increase," she said. "We need to ask, 'How can we develop our land in a way we can reduce human health risk and property damage?'"

FEMA has also updated the area's flood prone map, which will use aerial photos to make the maps easier to read.

Bill Walker, director of the Erie County Emergency Management Agency, said they have taken steps to prevent erosion when flooding occurs.

"We've cleaned up areas and planted water-friendly plants that suck water out hopefully to prevent erosion," Walker said.

He said they are looking into issues regarding tributaries and cleaning, widening and deepening ditches.

Correction: The potluck indicated in the print version of the article happened in June.