NORTH ROYALTON – As the heavy rain hit Monday evening, Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw found himself smack dab in a tornado warning while out on the road. He pulled off at his parents’ home to seek shelter.
While finding a safe route back home, the storm’s magnitude really soaked in.
“A lot of main streets were under water, some vehicles were trapped in water. At some points, there were several feet of water,” he said.
He attempted to zigzag along through streets, getting stalled by flood waters but eventually opted to wait for the water to recede a bit and head to the highest point he could think of ... city hall.
“That’s where I’ve been for the past two hours. I almost had to pay a visit to the Ward 4 Councilman,” Langshaw joked late Monday night from his car.
Council President Larry Antoskiewicz was out on the roads too. It took him three different routes but he finally found a safe way home from his daughter’s house in Brunswick Hills.
“Cars were turning around at some points, some were stuck in water. It’s crazy how much water fell in such a short period of time,” he said. “It was pretty scary. If you make a decision to go through the water, and you don’t make it, guess what, you’re done, you’re not going any further. So, I wasn’t going to follow someone through the water. Hopefully it was just the roads and not too many houses.”
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck found himself out in the elements too, heading back home from dinner.
“I took a drive around the ward. There was lots of water. I know storm water and waste water departments did what they could to preemptively be ready, but when you get this much water, there’s only so much you can plan for,” he said.
He was fielding phone calls, significantly fewer phone calls than he did a few years ago. Some of the calls were encouraging.
“I did hear that due to some of the improvements we’ve made there were areas that didn’t flood. It’s better, but we still have room to improve,” Marnecheck admits.
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell could be spotted near York and Albion roads sporting a yellow raincoat and telling motorists to turn around due to the flood danger there.
Superintendent Greg Gurka, Assistant Superintendent Jim Presot and several staff members were up until 2 a.m. cleaning mud and water from 13 flooded classrooms in the third and fourth-grade wing at Albion Elementary School, so the school could open as usual Tuesday morning. Presot was wearing his dress pants and a pair of boots as he mopped floors.
“To see him mopping the floor and moving furniture right next to the building principal, right next to cleaners and custodians from other buildings who just came to help was a sight you will not see in other districts,” Gurka wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “We talk a lot about the North Royalton way, and I cannot find a better example of what that statement means than last night.”
Two classrooms also flooded at Valley Vista Elementary. Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church is believed to have flooded too.
Meanwhile, across town Mayor Bob Stefanik manned phones at the service department while Service Director Nick Cinquepalmi directed crews.
“We’ve gotten about 23 calls so far,” he said at close to 10:30 p.m. “That’s still a lot. We’ll keep the crews overnight to clean up. The water’s already subsiding. Hopefully by daybreak everything will be cleaned up. We’ll have them out here tomorrow too.”
Parts of York, State, Ridge and Royalton roads were some of the main roadways flooded.
Unfortunately, the city’s waste water plant was underwater too. The creek that runs nearby breached its banks. Everything was still operational, and the mayor said the damage would be accessed the following morning.
Tuesday morning things weren’t much better. West 130th Street was closed at Valley Parkway, Ridge was closed between Cady and Boston roads and Edgerton was closed between West 130th and Akins Road. Stefanik said Mother Nature’s wrath was fully visible in the light of day.
“The Rocky River went over its banks on Ridge and Bennett. It spread out and covered three houses on either side of it. Everything from Medina County to us dumps into it,” he said. “Debris is everywhere throughout the streets. It’s just a mess.”
The call volume was at about 60 calls in the morning.
In 2006 one rain event resulted in more than 600 phone calls from residents frustrated at flood waters.
But, North Royalton, once with a notorious reputation for flooding, has come a long way.
The city has invested millions and millions of dollars to tackle major issues in an attempt to alleviate flooding as much as possible.
Retention basins, which had been neglected throughout the city years ago, have been cleaned and restored back to their original status; Biro Ditch has been cleared to remove years of built up silt and vegetation; the Chesapeake Basin was constructed to slow water that naturally drains westward from Ridge Road; and the Pamela/Parkdale drives and Gregory Lane storm sewer projects were completed to ease flooding issues.
Countless other ditches and culverts have been cleaned and cleared of debris.
But no matter how much has been done, the city on a hill is no match for a storm like this.
Early reports Monday night estimated rainfall anywhere from 3-5 inches depending on the area.
“We are never going to be able to spend enough money to prevent flooding to occur when nature dumps this much rain this fast upon us. My street had 3 feet of water in it and the 40-inch pipe in my back yard was filled to capacity for as long as I have seen it in the 15 years I have lived here,” said Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris, who lives on Beckenham Road.
And this storm was not exclusive to North Royalton. Much of northeast Ohio was under water from North Ridgeville to North Olmsted to North Royalton. Several tornado warnings were reported, flash flood warnings and watches.
“Everybody’s in the same boat, I don’t think anybody escaped it,” Antoskiewicz said.
Flooding will always be an issue to some degree simply because of the topography.
“No matter how much work we do, when the weather gets like this, it’s very difficult. Hopefully we’ve minimized any problems or damage. But we’ll never be satisfied, even if just one house floods,” he said.
“This is one of those once in a blue moon flash floods with all our hills. Thank goodness the mayor is on top of things and had all hands on deck,” Langshaw said.
Stefanik had storm water and waste water crews on alert ahead of the storm. And those crews worked throughout the night and into the next day.
“We were ready for it,” he said, “and we did the best we could. We can handle bad storms, but when that much rain comes in such a short amount of time, all bets are off.”