WAPAKONETA — Heavy overnight storms Thursday caused headaches for homeowners, campers, area law enforcement personnel, first responders and motorists in general in the greater Lima area.
Rainfall which unofficially topped 4 inches in some parts of northwest Ohio left many area roadways under water Friday morning. Van Wert and Auglaize counties were especially hard-hit, as was western Allen County, according to officials in each locale.
Accuweather.com reported Lima received 1.7 inches of raini between 5 p.m. Thursday and 5 p.m. Friday, besting a record of 1.35 inches for May 17 that was set back in 1943.
Some two dozen occupants of a campground at the edge of Wapakoneta were evacuated and temporarily relocated to the Auglaize County Fairgrounds Friday morning. The Delphos Fire Department used its rescue boat to assist a homeowner, and streets and roadways were closed throughout the region.
“It’s a mess out here,” Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said Friday morning as he took a tour of county roads. “If we get more rain today, we’ll be in trouble.”
Additional rain was in the forecast for both Friday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in northern Indiana.
Solomon said U.S. 33 was closed overnight just west of the Hardin Pike exit in Wapakoneta due to high water and remained closed early Friday morning. Several cars became stranded overnight along the highway and were being removed Friday morning as the flood waters began to recede. A spokesperson for the Ohio State Highway Patrol said the highway reopened shortly after 10:30 a.m. Friday.
State Route 29 at Plattner Pike and portions of state Route 197 in Auglaize County remained closed Friday afternoon due to high water, the patrol spokeswoman said.
“It hit real quick last night,” Solomon said of the severe thunderstorms that passed through the area.
Wapakoneta Fire Department Chief Tony Stinebaugh said his crews went on “several different rescue operations, one right after the other” starting at approximately 3 a.m. Friday as area creeks and waterways spilled from their banks.
The morning started with an assist of the Botkins Fire Department on County Road 25A when a vehicle became submerged. An hour later a similar assist was provided in the St. Johns area.
Around 4 a.m., Stinebaugh said, his department also provided assistance to the St. Johns Fire Department at Glacier Hills Lake, where a camper trailer was tilted sideways and was being swept away in fast-moving water. A single occupant of the camper was rescued and taken to safety.
Firemen were called at approximately 6 a.m. to Venture Out Resort, a campground on the east edge of Wapakoneta, after floodwaters made it impossible for campers to enter or exit the grounds. Stinebaugh said some two dozen persons staying at the campground were removed through the use of the fire department’s water rescue craft.
“High water had split the campground in half, and it wasn’t safe,” Stinebaugh said. “We went from trailer to trailer getting people out.”
Of the two dozen people evacuated, some went to the fairgrounds for temporary lodging, while others went to local motels, he said.
Van Wert concerns
In Van Wert County, road closures were coming so fast Friday morning “that our dispatchers can’t keep up,” said Deputy Brian Ellerbrock of the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office.
Ellerbrock said the central part of the county — the Lincoln Highway and state Route 697 corridors in particular — seemed to be the hardest hit areas, based on phone calls received by the sheriff’s office.
The deputy said he has heard unofficial accounts of up to and above 4 inches of rain falling during overnight storms.
“The amount of rain is all about where you are in the county,” he said. “There’s definitely water this morning is places I haven’t seen it in years.”
Ellerbrock urged motorists to use caution and to not attempt to drive through high water.
“Just turn around find another route,” he advised.
Flooding in Delphos
Delphos Police Chief Mark Slate said fire and police personnel removed some people by boat from a residence and from vehicles at the intersection of Main and Suthoff streets Friday morning due to rising water. State Route 66 was closed in both northbound and southbound directions in the city, and South Bredick Street “was flooded pretty good this morning,” the chief said.
West Fifth Street at the Knippen Chrysler auto dealership was closed, and the car dealer was dealing with water inside the business Friday morning, Slate said.
Allen County also dealt with five five county roadways closed early Friday afternoon.
Officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation said Friday afternoon that state Route 245 remained closed in two locations in Logan County: Between Township Road 1001 and state Route 117, and between state Route 245 and state Route 357.
The National Weather Service in northern Indiana on Friday issued a flood warning for the Auglaize River near Fort Jennings. At 10 a.m. Friday the river as at 11.3 feet and rising. Flood stage is 13.0 feet.
The river was expected to rise above flood stage Friday afternoon and is expected to crest at approximately 16.8 feet Saturday afternoon.
The last time the river crested above 16 feet was on Dec. 23, 2013.