07/28/2006

Ohio police save 100 from day care center

The Associated Press

EASTLAKE, Ohio- Flood water surged into homes and businesses, forcing people to rooftops to await rescue Friday morning after 10 inches of rain filled the rivers and streets of northeast Ohio.

Lake County, east of Cleveland, declared a state of emergency. County Administrator Kenneth R. Gauntner Jr. estimated at least 100 people had been evacuated and all available rescue boats had been pressed into service.

As much as 10 inches of rain fell Thursday and Friday in Lake County, the National Weather Service said.

Firefighters and Coast Guard crews were busy plucking stranded people from flooding homes and searching for a man who disappeared early Friday while moving marina equipment out of high water near the swollen Chagrin River, an outlet to Lake Erie.

Marge Cox, who was rescued from her ranch-style home by firefighters, noticed water trickling into her house early Friday.

"I looked out the window and, 'Oh, my!' Everything was water, everything was flooded. And then it started coming in my house so fast. It went up so fast," she said.

By the time firefighters reached her, the water was up to her mattress. "They got me out of there, but all my furniture is ruined," she said.

The flood water was halfway up the wheels of one fire truck as it inched its way toward a waterfront neighborhood, where several homes were flooded to their first floors. At another location, an inflated raft rescued people from a rooftop.

"I thought we were going to drown," said Jeanette Fattori, 57, who fled her Eastlake home with her husband, grabbing only their prescription medication. "It was just filling up our basement and the only way we got out of there was in a small boat with people from the fire department."

The Grand River was already 4 feet above flood stage in the flooded city of Painesville early Friday and expected to rise another foot, according to the weather service. In Willoughby, the Chagrin River was 21/2 feet above flood stage and also rising.

Several storms have pounded the state over the past month, wreaking havoc on riverside homes and low-lying neighborhoods.

"It's just been a very active weather pattern for this part of the country," said Dan Leins, a weather service meteorologist in Cleveland. "When you have weather patterns like this, it's not uncommon to see showers and thunderstorms several nights in a row."

In Eastlake, officials opened City Hall as a temporary shelter.

In nearby Mentor, police helped remove more than 100 children from Ridge Pointe Child Care Center on Thursday as waist-deep water flooding the parking lot began seeping into the building.

Children were pulled through windows and bused to a nearby fire station, where their parents picked them up.

"It was the most organized chaos I have ever seen," said Tonja Schleicher, owner of the day care. "Some of the kids were a little upset, so we just hugged them a little tighter."

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