West Akron streets turned into raging rivers Thursday evening after a 36-inch water main broke at the intersection of North Valley and West North streets.
Motorists who ventured into the flooded streets in the West Hill neighborhood had to climb to the roofs of their vehicles as the swift current stalled engines.
Residents who witnessed the scene unfold from the safety of their homes watched in horror as the water kept rising. They too quickly found themselves in harm’s way.
The torrent flooded basements and even swept away the foundations of at least three structures. It carved deep ruts into the pavement and left behind inches of thick mud when the water main was eventually turned off.
Police Lt. Rick Edwards said the police department first got a call at 6:16 p.m. about standing water at Aqueduct Street and West North Street.
Officers were greeted by frantic calls for help from people standing on the roofs of cars and residents trapped in their homes.
The fire department’s divers and swift-water rescue team were called in to assist in the rescues.
Edwards said no one was injured, but the loss of property might be significant.
Fire Lt. Jeff Schueller, a member of the dive team, said a boat was used to evacuate as many as 11 people from two homes on North Valley Street.
The homes — situated around the corner and down a small hill from where the water main broke — bore the brunt of the cascading water.
“It was swift water — it just came downhill” from North Street and pooled in front of the homes on North Valley, Schueller said.
When the boat’s engine stalled, firefighters had to use a “rope rescue” technique — with rope attached to their waists — to get to some of the residents.
“I was upstairs watching TV. It sounded like rain,” said Kari Scott, 31, who lives on North Valley. “I looked out the window and didn’t see anything. Then I got up from my bed and then I saw [the street] flooded.”
Scott along with her son, Anthony Scott, 5, were rescued by a firefighter.
Applause erupted from a small crowd gathered nearby when a firefighter carried the small boy out of the knee-deep water.
Next-door neighbor Tracy Mayfield, 42, said firefighters had to use a boat to evacuate her blind aunt, who has difficulty walking, from the home they share.
“Her legs don’t bend,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said she tried to rescue her aunt.
“I tried to walk through the back and around and the water got up to my knees,” she said. “I almost fell. I got a hold of a tree and went to the porch.”
Kimberly Walls, who was visiting friends in the neighborhood, had to watch helplessly as the car alarm from her flooded 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis blared away into the night.
“I was getting ready to leave and somebody was telling me my car was flooded,” Walls said. “I ran outside and tried to get out but I couldn’t. I didn’t make it through the doorway to even get to it because the water was so high.
“I couldn’t get off the front porch to save my car.”
Starlla Tucker said she inadvertently drove her 2005 Chrysler 300 into a wall of water as she made her way to West Market Street.
“It hit me and came up on the car and hit the front windshield,” Tucker said. “I just stopped and hopped out. The water was just all coming down.”
Stanley Glover, 53, who lives with his fiancee, Delonda Davis, on Gold Street, said the basement of his home is flooded.
“It was just pouring in like a water hose, busting through the foundation,” he said.
Their home is near the intersection with North Valley and north of North Street.
“I’ve never seen this much devastation,” he said.
Authorities said around a dozen people displaced by the flood were assisted Thursday night by the American Red Cross. Others sought shelter with friends and relatives.
Stephanie York, a city spokeswoman, said the cause of the break was still being assessed.
York said the city has dispatched workers to repair the water main and assist residents.
“They’re out there,” she said. “They’re on it.”
Gas and electric service was disconnected to numerous homes in the area as inspectors worked through the night to determine whether some structures were inhabitable.
Police barricaded several roads while repairs were being made.
“Please avoid that area,” Edwards said.
York said the city is advising residents in West Akron who notice that their water was discolored or experienced low pressure Thursday night to boil their water for at least two minutes until further notice.
The boil alert also affects residents in Fairlawn and Copley Township who have Akron water.
Beacon Journal staff writers Katie Byard and Stephanie Warsmith and correspondent Fred Cay contributed to this report.