BARBERTON: The morning after a storm flooded numerous streets in the region and left thousands without power, Richard Johnson was looking for people stranded in his Barberton neighborhood.
In his canoe.
Johnson, 42, of 14th Street Northwest — one of several streets in west Barberton that the storm overwhelmed — had been in his canoe since 1 a.m. Thursday. By late morning, he had helped rescue a dozen people from battered homes.
Eight of the 13 steps leading to the basement of his rented home were still underwater.
“This is the worst I’ve seen,” said Johnson, who works at an auto body shop.
Wednesday’s storm dumped 2.53 inches of rain, including 1.99 inches in one hour, as measured at Akron Fulton International Airport’s National Weather Service monitoring site. There was no official figure for Barberton, but the Magic City seemed to sustain the most widespread damage in the Akron-Canton area.
Many roads were still impassable Thursday. The exit ramp from Interstate 76 to heavily flooded Barber Road was closed. Nearby, workers at the Fred Martin auto dealerships were busy all day moving hundreds of vehicles to higher ground.
Up the street from Johnson’s residence, Greg McKee, owner of a rental house, said his home sustained about $10,000 damage from the flood. Water was still at least 7 feet high in the basement Thursday afternoon, he said.
“I’ve owned [the house] too long to put up with this,” McKee said. “The city hasn’t done nothing.”
Johnson said he bought his canoe for recreation but “it has come in handy” because of all the times his neighborhood has been flooded.
Johnson said the city desperately needs to resolve flooding issues that plague the neighborhood along Wooster Road West.
“We want help,” he said.
Barberton Mayor Bill Judge said city crews worked round the clock “to alleviate the flooding in the city. We have displaced residents and had to evacuate several apartment complexes and areas.”
He said the city “is working with the Red Cross, Barberton City Schools, Salvation Army and other groups in helping residents affected by the flooding.”
Judge said rainfall amounts in the city ranged from 2.1 to 3 inches.
“We currently have several roads still closed and are assessing the extensiveness of the flooding and damage,” he said. “To my knowledge, we have no fatalities resulting from this event and are diligently working to assist residents.”
Judge said the city has been working for the past year and a half on projects throughout Barberton “to help combat and alleviate the flooding episodes.”
Several projects are “near shovel-ready and others are still in the planning and or engineering phase,” Judge said.
At 3 p.m. Thursday, the city opened a shelter for displaced residents at the Lake Anna Y.
At the American Red Cross of Summit and Portage County facility in Akron, 21 people, nearly all from Barberton, were being housed at a shelter set up at the agency’s office on West Market Street.
Steven Steidel, 59, a resident of Heritage Place Apartments on 30th Street in Barberton, said water poured into the first-floor building. “Let’s say you could put a canoe” in the water. “It just came in gushing.”
Walter Faix, 78, also a resident of Heritage Place, spent Wednesday night at the Red Cross shelter as well.
“I was sitting [at home] reading magazines and watching TV, and a friend of mine called me and said, ‘Are you OK?’ ” Faix said.
He said he then heard someone from the Barberton Fire Department asking everyone to leave the building. He ran into Loren Miller, 84, another resident.
“There is a flood here!” Miller told Faix.
“I said, ‘Holy mackerel,’ ” Faix said. “It was really bad.”
The three men said they were happy they had a shelter to go to but were looking forward to returning home.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.