Heavy rains over the weekend forced the closure of roads in several area communities on Monday, including Akron, Green, Norton and Barberton.
But it’s the city known for its unique brand of chicken that was hit the hardest — and it’s not the first time.
Much of Barber Road, a major thoroughfare in the city of 26,000 residents, was flooded Monday.
Ditto for 14th and 15th streets. Add in South Van Buren Avenue and other pockets in the city, and many residents are asking when the city will finally find a solution to the problem.
Most of the attention from the city and media tends to focus on Barber Road, which has long been a sore thumb when the rains come. But residents on less-traveled roads tell a tale of flooded basements, lost possessions, and — in one case on South Van Buren — a possible electrocution.
The city received a call at 1:45 p.m. about a man who had been electrocuted in the basement of a South Van Buren home. A fire department employee at the scene said a man had been taken to the hospital, but he could not confirm if the man had been electrocuted.
A woman who lives in the house said the son of the woman who owns the home had attempted to help his mother by installing a sump pump in the basement. She said the man had been shocked, but was expected to survive.
About 3 p.m., fire personnel were still at the home and placing a large fan outside the front door to help remove carbon dioxide from the house.
Down the 300 block of South Van Buren, residents were angry about their latest battle with high water.
“This is the fourth time we’ve flooded,” said Lena Ketchum, a resident who lives with her husband, Leobardo Ceja, on South Van Buren in the so-called Snydertown section of the city. Here, residents say, city officials pay scant attention to their continual battles with flooded yards and basements.
Ketchum says that in this round of flooding, she lost two beds, a floor freezer, a washer and dryer, and maybe a furnace.
Ketchum’s daughter said her mother also lost use of an oxygen tank in the flooded basement and was using up an auxiliary.
With no flood insurance — it can run as much as half the cost of a monthly mortgage for some homeowners — the multiple floodings become a financial drain, said Ketchum.
“Damn Barberton doesn’t do nothing for us,” she said.
South Van Buren Avenue resident Gerald Brannon was leaving Monday to stay with a relative. His basement, like others on the street, was flooded.
"The rain is still coming, and it's going to keep coming," he said.
Brannon said he lost clothing, baseball cards and other items. He was more concerned, however, about what to do after the rain stopped.
"I'm just stressed about how I'm going to get all the water out," he said.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski, whose district includes Barberton, toured the city with Mayor Bill Judge on Monday and said she was shocked by what she saw.
“We’re talking about whole families up and down those streets,” Galonski said. “We need short-term aid and a long-term solution.”
The long-term solution is what’s eluded city lawmakers. With a budget crunch brought on in large part by the looming departure of Babcock & Wilcox to Akron, funding is difficult to come by.
Galonski said she talked to a resident affected by the flooding who told her a minimum quote on flood insurance was $250 a month for a home whose mortgage was $500 a month. That expense, Galonski said, just isn't possible for many residents to afford.
On Barber Road, flooding closed the street at the intersection of Norton Road, where the city’s high school and middle school are located. At the southwest corner of the intersection, Rocky’s Express Mart remained open, but business was slow.
“You can see nobody’s coming around. There’s no traffic,” said Kus Umkem, manager of the convenience store.
Umkem said the flooding problem has been around for decades, and he was frustrated that the city hasn’t been able to fix it.
“It’s been like this for 30 years,” he said. “I’m hoping they come up with a solution; I’m hoping they fix this problem.”
But Umkem was skeptical.
“If you see this over and over in Barberton, would you bring your business here?” he said. "If you’re a business owner, why would you bring it in?”
Across the street on the northwest of the intersection, Barberton Cars & Tires owner Bill Makdah seemed resigned to the flooding and its effect on his business.
“You lose business, you lose sales,” Makdah said. “There’s nothing we can do; there’s nothing I can do.”
Galonski said she intends to discuss the Barberton flooding with the speaker of the Ohio House on Tuesday.
She said she was so moved by the situation in Barberton that she sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine to see if Barberton could benefit from disaster aid legislation intended for other counties. Galonski is also considering legislation to help the city.
“All they can tell me is ‘no.’” she said.
On Monday afternoon, Barberton Public Information Officer Lt. Duane Milford issued a news release warning that up to 1.5 inches of rain could be dumped on the city Monday night.
“With grounds saturated and ample rainfall over the past weekend, the risk for additional flooding has increased,” the fire department warned.
The fire department also advised residents not to walk in flooded areas because the waters could be contaminated. City crews have reported missing manhole covers, “which create a hazard for injury or drowning.”
Umkem said that when he tells someone he’s from Barberton, they often refer to a reputation the city doesn’t deserve, but has acquired after years of flooded streets.
“You guys are known either for chicken or flooding,” he said they tell him.
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.