Blanchard River crests in Ottawa

First Posted: 12/23/2013

OTTAWA — It's an all-too common occurrence, and that's not a good thing.

Residents in Ottawa and Putnam County waited for the Blanchard River to crest Monday and prepared to deal with the aftermath, as the National Weather Service extended flood warnings for multiple rivers in the region until Wednesday morning.

The flooding closed the intersection of state Route 65 and state Route 224, as well as many other roads in Ottawa and Putnam County. At its height, the flooding also shut down sections of state Routes 114, 115, 189, 190 and 634 in Putnam County.

Flooding in parking lots in downtown Ottawa also closed the Putnam County Courthouse. Main Street downtown was covered in water for blocks, stretching nearly half a mile.

The county expected to reopen most area roads Tuesday evening after the river dropped below 27 feet, as the rivers began dropping several inches per hour.

Putnam County Public Safety Director Steven Odenweller said the repeated nature of the flooding has meant people are good at preparing for and dealing with it.

“We're getting good at it, which is a sad thing,” Odenweller said.

The Blanchard River crested at 28.85 feet at 8 a.m. Monday. The river spent six hours above 28.8 feet, well above flood stage of 23 feet but below the “major” flood stage set by the National Weather Service. Still, it was the sixth-worst recorded flood in Ottawa. The worst remains the 33.30 feet seen in 1913. The river should drop below flood stage around 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Six of the 10 worst floods happened since 2007, including one in April. Repeated flooding takes its emotional toll on a community, Odenweller said.

“It's tough. (Watching the water rise) is the worst thing about it, knowing there is nothing you can do about it,” Odenweller said. “Communities don't usually take hits like this, every year. We know this spring, we'll probably do this all over again.”

Heavy rain mixed with a snow melt Friday, Saturday and Sunday caused flooding in the region. In many places, the water has receded. In Bluffton, for example, Riley Creek has returned to its banks, the Bluffton Police Department reported. On Sunday, flooding caused several streets and the northbound Interstate 75 entrance ramp at Bentley Road to close.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, on Monday toured Findlay, which is experiencing major flooding downtown. He also met with regional mayors, including Ottawa's J. Dean Meyer. Portman and others are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to provide funding for flood mitigation.

Portman said he will continue to prod the Corps on funding.

“As I saw firsthand today, flooding in the Findlay and Ottawa region continues to plague local residents and businesses. This is a threat to Northwest Ohio's safety and economy that only seems to be intensifying,” Portman said. “The local community and the federal government must work together to protect against future flooding.”

Just on Friday, the river was only 6 feet deep.

The repeated flooding has also made some residents not take it as seriously as they should, Odenweller said. He asked drivers to respect high water and road closed signs, to not create unnecessary problems for first responders.

“It's surprising how many people do not heed those signs. They become part of the problem,” Odenweller said. “Firefighters, police officers are then putting their own lives at risk to help someone who never should have drove in there.”

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