Helen Rose's trailer home sits on a bluff overlooking the Blanchard River on the west side of Ottawa, Ohio. She has lived here all of her life, but today she and her husband, Harley, face an uncertain future.
Red Cross Assistant Shelter Manager Sandy Kaple (r) talks to Helen Rose, an Ottawa, Ohio resident who lost her home to the recent flooding. Rose is staying at the Red Cross shelter where Kaple and other Red Cross volunteers are helping her with disaster relief. Photo credit: Allen Crabtree, American Red Cross
Helen and Harley had seen the river rise to flood stage before, but the wide stretch of bottom lands that separates their trailer from the river had always been enough to absorb the water before it reached the trailer. Last week, it wasn't.
"The river flooded before, years ago, but the water only came up to the bottom edge of our porch," Helen said. "This time, Harley looked out and said, 'We've got to get out!' The water was already over the porch. We had to wade through chest-deep water to get out to high ground."
The Putnam County (Ohio) Emergency Operations Center reported that the Blanchard River crested at 31.71 feet on August 23, nearly 9 feet above flood level. A week-long downpour—which began with the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin moving up the Mississippi River and later combined with a storm system over Minnesota and surrounding states—dropped nearly 9 inches of water on the area, submerging downtown Ottawa in a blanket of water and causing the worst flooding in Ohio since 1913.
'Only the Clothes on Their Backs'
Helen and Harley took refuge with a neighbor, then went to an American Red Cross shelter. Red Cross disaster relief workers provided the couple (and some of their neighbors who had been forced from their homes) a safe place to stay, hot meals, individual and family assistance, and mental health counseling. An animal relief team rescued the Roses' five cats and found a kennel in Toledo to board them through the emergency.
Helen Rose's trailer was one of many that were flooded by the waters of the Blanchard River when it overflowed its banks. Photo credit: Allen Crabtree, American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteer Sandy Kaple estimates that 400 families were evacuated in Ottawa. Within an hour after the evacuation order was announced, the Red Cross had opened a shelter at Trinity United Methodist Church. When the storm knocked out power and nearby streets began to flood, the shelter was moved to an alternate location on higher ground.
"People were coming to the shelter with only the clothes on their backs," Kaple said. "They were drenched—you could see from their wet clothes where they had waded through the water. They all said the waters came up so fast they only had time to flee their homes."
The waters have now receded, and Ottawa residents are busy cleaning out their homes. The streets are lined with sodden carpet, furniture, clothing, drywall and insulation that have been removed from homes and businesses. The Red Cross continues to distribute clean-up kits and hot meals throughout affected neighborhoods and provide shelter and support for those affected by the floods.
At Helen Rose's trailer park, residents are salvaging what possessions they can and wondering if the park will be condemned. For now, Helen and Harley are staying at the Red Cross shelter, and Red Cross volunteers are working to connect them with other agencies and charities to assist their recovery.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.