June 14, 2008

Storms Soak Residents Drying Out From Earlier Deluge

By Morgan Day, Robert Vitale and Jim Woods, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jun. 14--Residents who spent yesterday sweeping up tree limbs and airing out mud-caked basements from Thursday's storm found themselves taking cover again yesterday evening.

Pounding rain swept through Columbus about 6 p.m., nearly the same time that Thursday's storm hit, though yesterday's downpour wasn't as severe.

It did, however, knock out power to more residents, down power lines and tree limbs and briefly flood some low-lying areas.

A section of Rt. 315 near Downtown was closed for about an hour because of high water, as it was on Thursday. Later in the evening, the southbound ramps to Rt. 315 at North Broadway, Ackerman and Lane were closed.

Meanwhile, a large number of Columbus Fire's rescue squads and boats were called out when a group of teenagers called for help, saying one of them had been swept down a swift creek.

In the end, 13-year-old Emily Harris was safe. But for a short time, no one knew that.

It all started when Emily and a group of friends, hanging out behind Glenwood United Methodist Church on Valleyview Drive, took refuge underneath a foot bridge when the skies opened up.

They were standing on rocks in shallow water in Dry Run, said Jordan Melton, 15.

He said an emptying storm sewer and the heavy downpour soon swelled the creek.

Jordan and three of his companions were knocked into the water. He was able to grab a rock and pull himself out. But they couldn't see Emily.

"We couldn't find her, and all of us were flipping out," he said.

Shortly afterward, she was found a bit down the creek, where she'd managed to climb out. She wasn't injured.

Yesterday's storm also bumped up the number of residents without power.

There were 4,200 American Electric Power customers without electricity late last night, said AEP spokeswoman Mary Flint. Some of those had been without power since Thursday's storm. Because the outages are scattered, she said, there's no way to predict when power will be restored.

Meanwhile, those who live in German Village, one of the areas hit hardest by Thursday's storm, were putting their insurance companies to work yesterday.

People stood on muddy streets and sidewalks snapping photos of damage caused by the thunderstorm.

Matt Brown left his tan Chevy Blazer at his girlfriend's house that day and returned to find it swamped. Dirt and debris coated the inside more than halfway up the seats.

Mike Gallagher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said winds reached 70 miles per hour Thursday, mainly in the German Village area. Hail measured nearly an inch in some areas, and 2 to 3 inches of rain fell in an hour.

The Hilltop Swim Club, a popular summer spot for families in the West Side neighborhood, was shut down yesterday after a nearby creek overflowed into its pool and building.

The pool was drained and cleaned and will reopen this morning.

David Tetzloff, co-owner and executive chef of G. Michael's Bistro and Bar in German Village, said the restaurant had diners at 10 to 15 tables when the power went out at 6:30 Thursday. He had to stop serving and couldn't open his doors yesterday, either.

"We lost two nights' business, plus cleaning expense, plus the fact that there's going to be product loss in terms of food and shortened shelf life because we lost power for a while," he said. "I wouldn't put an estimate on it, but that's a significant amount of money."

German Village residents questioned whether flooding on 3rd Street was a result of inadequate sewers and clogged grates.

Rick Tilton, assistant director of the Columbus Department of Public Utilities, said water overwhelmed the system, which is undergoing a 40-year, $2.5 billion upgrade and expansion.

But department experts were convinced yesterday that the amount of rain that fell would have resulted in flooding even with a bigger system in place. "The system is designed to take only so much water," he said.

Scattered showers were expected to end last night, and dry weather should prevail for Father's Day weekend, said Chris Bradley, chief meteorologist for WBNS-TV (Channel 10).

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