Kathy Antoniotti

GREEN: Deputy Service Director Paul Oberdorfer doesn’t hesitate when asked when the city’s worst flooding in recent memory occurred.

It was the day a car floated down a street in the city of 26,000 residents.

“July 19, 2011,” Oberdorfer said, remembering the date weather service gauges at Akron-Canton Airport recorded 4.73 inches of rain falling in about three hours.

As Tropical Storm Sandy moved up the East Coast on Monday, it was merging with two other weather fronts to create a longer rain event that, over four or five days, could produce nearly as much precipitation as the 2011 storm, said meteorologist John Mayers of the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

“The entire event could produce 2, 3 or 4 inches of rain, so that’s not out of the question,” he said.

As of noon Monday, the Akron-Canton Airport had recorded 1.63 inches of rain since it started Friday, Mayers said.

“When [Hurricane Sandy] first started, it was indirectly enhancing our precipitation,” he said.

The weather service predicted that as much as another 1.5 inches of rain could fall between Monday evening and today from the colossal storm covering the eastern half of the country, he said.

“The front will stall over Pennsylvania for approximately 18 hours, bringing [us] high winds and more rain,” Mayers said.

Blizzard warnings have been posted in the Appalachian mountain areas, he said.

A high-wind warning issued Monday by the weather service said Northeast Ohio residents could expect sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 55 to 60 mph through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Due to the strong winds and saturated ground, residents can expect downed trees and power lines, the weather service warned.

More than a year ago, Green began preparations to prevent another incident such as the flooding from the 2011 storm. Mayor Dick Norton immediately established a Storm Water Initiative Committee of experts to develop a long-term plan to deal with the issue.

Oberdorfer was called upon to chair the committee.

Although the stormwater was confined to two or three hot spots, council allocated up to $250,000 for immediate fixes in older residential neighborhoods when floodwater overwhelmed clogged storm lines and smaller-capacity pipes.

At the time, service crews, reduced to having only an option of closing streets, were frustrated because they were unable to offer more help for flooded residential properties.

In 2012, crews began installing debris screens in the stormwater drainage pipes to catch leaves and other objects and prevent them from plugging the system.

“Our crews started cleaning the debris screens and checking the water channels Saturday and Sunday,” in preparation for the storm, Oberdorfer said.

Additionally, residents will see service crews responding in a repurposed fire department rescue squad that transports equipment needed to clean clogged drains.

The Storm Water Response Unit also houses a new, $70,000 camera that uses the latest technology to allow crews to see inside under-performing drainage pipes so they can determine the problem, such as whether the pipes are blocked by tree roots or contain broken tile, Oberdorfer said.

“They can go in and inspect ahead of the storm,” he said.

A crumbling culvert was replaced this year at Mayfair and Mount Pleasant roads, and engineering studies are being done to fix problems caused by old, small-capacity drainage lines in Hightower Estates, he said.

Today, barring flooding that overwhelms the system, service workers have done all they can do to prevent a recurrence of the worst flood in recent memory in the 20-year-old city.

But, just in case, hours at the Service Department will be extended until 7:30 p.m. today. The office will be fully staffed for immediate response with three employees available and the service supervisor, Oberdorfer said Monday. Residents can call the dispatch center at 330-896-6610 for help.

Hours at the city’s recycle center, at 5383 S. Massillon Road, will be extended from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Wednesday to accept brush and tree debris.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.