CUYAHOGA FALLS: Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters monitored Monday’s bad weather from his home on Pendleton Street until the rain started.
“There was such a huge amount, and it was going sideways,” Walters said.
Then the call came that City Hall had flooded.
He jumped in his Jeep Grand Cherokee and headed for City Hall. But he encountered flooded streets at every turn.
“I couldn’t get through,” Walters said.
Five months after he took the oath of office, he is managing his second disaster.
Damage from January’s broken water pipe in City Hall that destroyed records and took out the phones and computers had just been repaired when the information technology department flooded again Monday.
Stormwater pushed a trash can through a window at the former entrance to the municipal court and the water rushed in with it.
Service director Eric Czetli estimates that the water had to travel 60 to 80 feet to pool in the temperature-controlled computer room. Workers pumped 30,000 gallons of water from the lower level.
And this storm, Walters said, did not just impact City Hall.
Residents were stuck in high water on streets all over the city. At least five homes had structural damage from rushing water that destroyed basement walls. Walters was ready to handle the flood of calls.
“I went through this nightmare in 2003, as a city councilman,” he said. “This was almost identical.”
In 2003, Walters’ ward was hit hard by a July storm that overwhelmed storm sewers and left sewage in several basements around Lincoln School.
At that time, Walters spent the night of the storm and the next day checking on his constituents, inspecting the damage, and even, in a couple of instances, helping to clean out the basements of elderly residents.
This time, Walters was stationed at the command center set up in Fire Station 5 on Wyoga Lake Road, helping to manage emergency response in the whole city.
While dispatchers answered nearly 700 calls to the city’s emergency 911 system, Walters, his cabinet and others kept track of hot spots in the city where aid was needed.
“It went as smooth as is could possibly go,” Walters said. “There was a fall and a heart attack, and a lot of gas leaks.”
On Tuesday, Walters gathered his cabinet to assess the damage. He is encouraging any resident with structural or other damage to contact City Hall at 330-971-8000. The information is needed so that the city can apply for emergency funds.
Walters plans to give an update on the storm damage during Monday’s City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Natatorium.
Walters praised the city’s workers for their efforts.
“Not just the top level, everyone. They went above and beyond to help.”
Residents also came together to help neighbors, Walters said.
“This reaffirms we’re not just a city of houses and streets,” he said. “We’re a community.”