OTTAWA — Cloudy water climbed to where children normally exit a blue and red curly slide in Kalida Community Park on Monday. The seats of the swing set were no longer visible. Basketball hoops looked mere feet from the ground with most of their poles submerged.
But this is a scene that is all too familiar to many Putnam County residents. Many have come to expect high waters when the Blanchard River and Auglaize River flood with rain and snow runoff.
“We always joke about having ‘river front property,’” said Ottawa resident, Serena Vogt, 29, laughing. “You learn to live with it. It’s more of a lifestyle now.”
That lifestyle is shared among most Ottawa residents, said director of Putnam County Office of Public Safety, Steve Odenweller.
“All along the river, particularly since 2007 and even before that, it’s just that people are prepared for this,” Odenweller said on Monday. “And, really, I would almost say we’re prepared for 23 feet right up to 26 or 27 feet. That’s just kind of the way it happens around here. Once we get over that, people start to get a little more anxious because some of the stores may have issues and people are really thinking about taking stuff out of their house.”
But residents have seen much worse, Odenweller said. The waters on Monday afternoon were pretty well anticipated, he said.
“One of the things that might be surprising to us is that we’re finding some washouts in some areas that we normally wouldn’t have anticipated. It’s following its normal path that we would expect,” he said. “Now that will change a little bit if we get the cold weather and the ice starting to form and all of that.”
The National Weather Service of Northern Indiana predicted the Blanchard River to crest at 25 feet near Ottawa around 1 a.m. today. The conditions were considered a flood at 23 feet.
The Augalize River in Fort Jennings crested Monday morning at 14.65 feet. It was considered a flood at 13 feet, according to the weather service.
“The way it happened, it seemed like the Auglaize River in Fort Jennings jumped up quick and we don’t always see that. It seems to change and one flood is different from the next, but we usually see a progression,” Odenweller said. “If you look online, you don’t even see a whole lot going on with the Riley Creek and that usually can cause some problems.”
Jeff Will, owner of Flower Fort in Fort Jennings, said the river flooding has never bothered him. He’s owned the business for 33 years, which sits on the river.
“The closest it’s ever really gotten to here is about six inches from the building, but never more than that,” he said.
Even though residents are accustomed to the flooding, Odenweller said residents should be cautious on the roadways, even with the conditions now.
“Start out earlier, particularly when there’s water around, because people do caught out there,” he said. “We’re starting to see some washouts and you might not even know that there’s a wash out and you could get caught in just a few inches of water just because the road washed away.”
But the flooding in the winter does worry Odenweller for spring time, he said.
“But a few inches of snow and rain, even more than a few inches, it’s setting up for us, if this continues, it’s setting up for a spring that we’re going to have to worry about,” he said.
Elswhere, flood warnings also have been issued for the Portage River at Woodville and the Blanchard River near Findlay, and in addition, the National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for several portions of northwest Ohio, including in Hancock, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Wood, and Wyandot counties until Sunday evening.
Low-lying areas and small streams experienced high water in many places. Residents and businesses near waterways should be on the alert for rising water today, according to the weather service, because of high water.
The National Weather Service also issued a flood warning for Eagle Creek in Findlay. Mnor flooding was reported and forecasters said the river could reach 9.5 feet overrun its banks, and cover Fremont and Graceland avenues.