OTTAWA — Signs of life are returning to Ottawa as floodwaters continue to recede, albeit slowly, from heavy weekend rains that caused the Blanchard River to overflow.
“It’s come down quite a bit today, but overnight, it took a little while to come down after it crested,” said Sgt. Brad Nelson, of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. “Right now, we’re just trying to get everything cleaned up as the water recedes so everything can be opened back up.”
After reaching levels of 28.85 feet Monday, waters from the river measured 27.8 feet as of noon Tuesday, still almost four feet above flood level. Once the levels reach 26 feet, the village’s major highways, state Route 65 and U.S. Route 224, will be able to reopen.
With temperatures only reaching 20 degrees Tuesday, cleanup crews found themselves dealing with removing ice rather than water.
“The ice is giving people a few problems, but they’re slowly getting it cleaned up and off the roads,” Nelson said. “However, we haven’t had any calls today for any rescues or anything, and I don’t believe we had anything overnight either.”
Waters that had reached up to Main Street downtown Monday receded south just past Second Street on Tuesday, allowing businesses to reopen just in time for last-minute holiday shopping.
“We were closed yesterday because the water was up to the step,” said Nancy Wannemacher, owner of Wannemacher Jewelers on Main Street. “Thank God we’ve been busy today.”
Along with businesses opening up, other signs of life have returned to the village. Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church announced its Christmas Eve and Christmas services would take place as scheduled, although worshipers would have to find parking at the nearby Love Funeral Home, First Federal Bank or near its Fourth Street gym, as water covered some of its regular parking.
Ross Schroeder lives on Walnut Street, and despite the street in front of his house being still covered in water, his house fared well during the flood.
“It was mostly just up to the sidewalks here,” Schroeder said. “My basement saturated a little bit through some cracks, but otherwise, it just ran through some natural drainage out of the house.”
Six of the top ten floods to ever hit the area have come within the past six years, so residents are unfortunately all too familiar with these conditions.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had some experience dealing with this,” Nelson said.
Steve Odenweller, the director of the Putnam County Office of Public Safety, urged residents to be smart before moving back into flooded homes. He recommended finding an experienced electrician check before turning power back on. The health department can test waters if flood waters surrounded your well. A contractor should also inspect, clean and re-ignite your appliances.
He also reminded people to contact your insurance company before discarding anything from the flood. Flood-related items should also be separated from regular trash.
Losses sustained from this flood will be felt even more by Ottawa residents, with the flood occurring so close to Christmas.
“I don’t want to downplay it because there are some people who are going to be affected to where they can’t be in their homes for Christmas, which is sad,” Nelson said, “but unfortunately, because we’ve had this so many times, we’ve gotten into something of a routine with this. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that although it may be an inconvenience for most of us, we still have homes to go back to. Not everyone can say that.”