Flooding in Lake County

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It began this morning before dawn with residents waking up to find more than a foot of rapidly-rising water in their homes. 37-year-old Roseanna Belon lives in Painesville in a condominium on the Grand River. She says she was awakened when the power went off about 5:30. She heard the sound of moving water downstairs, went to investigate - and found her kitchen underwater.

Roseanna Belon: The room was completely flooded. I watched my refrigerator get picked up and pushed up against the wall and fall over on its side and float away out of my kitchen. It was very scary.

Belon says the water rose fast, flooding not only the lower floor of her condo, but the garage where her car was parked. She says she could see water already up to the steering wheel and her cell phone floating on the front seat.

Roseanna Belon: I had to crawl out my bedroom window into a rubber boat and they whisked me off into the street. And a Laketran bus was there to take us to Harvey High School for safety. And Red Cross was there and they had water and apples and stuff for us. You see it on TV all the time and you're like, oh my gosh, and you're like praying for those people and, God, that's horrible, that'll never happen to me. And then... It's me. (laughs)

About 250 Lake County residents like Belon had to be rescued from their homes by boat. Jane Beathard is a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Water Division. She says emergency personnel - some of whom helped rescue flood victims in New Orleans last year - allowed many people to bring their pets with them.

Jane Beathard: We sent four swift water rescue teams very early this morning. Also, about 12 additional swift water rescue teams from various different local fire departments from around the state were also called up. But those groups have now stood down. The water came up very fast and is going down equally fast.

Beathard says about 30 residents were rescued from a development in Eastlake on the Chagrin River and more than a hundred were plucked from homes along the upper Chagrin in the vicinity of Steel Road. State Emergency Management officials say there were no forced evacuations. And while they don't yet know exactly how many Lake County residents had to leave their homes, a fire captain in Painesville estimates that about 600 residents there fled to higher ground. Officials on the scene say the floodwaters left behind a sea of mud. Even as floodwaters recede many roads and bridges remain closed. And now state rescue crews are turning to another job. Again, Jane Beathard.

Jane Beathard: Our watercraft officers in the process of assisting the U.S. Coast Guard at the Fairport Harbor station with retrieving boats that have broken loose and are floating in Lake Erie. Many of them came out of marinas in the flooded rivers. They're adrift and we're in the process of towing them into Fairport Harbor.

A local sheriff estimates that more than a hundred boats broke loose from their moorings and are now causing a navigation hazard. This afternoon Governor Bob Taft declared a state of emergency for Lake County residents affected by the flooding. State officials says there's no estimate yet of the damage caused by yesterday's flooding, but they'll be bringing in experts tomorrow to begin the assessment. Karen Schaefer, 90.3.

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