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BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Drenched together

A group of elementary school-aged children play corn hole while others frolic in frightening costumes. They aren’t at a Halloween party – they’re in the middle of a Findlay ice arena that has been converted into an American Red Cross shelter following several days of severe flooding.

More than 185 people spent Thursday night in the Cube Ice Arena after being evacuated from their homes. Earlier in the week, a series of rain storms drenched northwest Ohio, causing the Blanchard River, which runs through Findlay, to rise more than 7 feet above flood level.

An estimated 2,200 to 2,500 Findlay residents were forced from their homes. About 500 had to be evacuated by boats, navigated by rescue workers, said Hancock County Commissioner Phillip Riegle.

An evacuation shelter was first opened last Tuesday at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. But that shelter was overtaken by rising flood waters, forcing occupants to move to the ice arena in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Workers at the shelter came from locations both in and out of state to provide food, medication, clothes and other crucial services to the evacuees.

So many clothes have been donated that there is no longer an immediate need. However, the shelter is still accepting monetary donations through the American Red Cross.

Restaurants like Bob Evans, Chipotle, Olive Garden and other local businesses have contributed by feeding the evacuees.

These services have been utilized by victims who came to the shelter with what few possessions they were able to salvage. In addition to a roof over their heads and warm meals, victims have needed simple necessities like eyeglasses and dentures replaced.

“When you see some of the cases come in, you have to walk off and have a good cry,” said Phyllis Davis, a Red Cross volunteer, whose Findlay home was also damaged by the flood.

Adam and Lisa Laureano, whose home was partially destroyed by flood damage, have been living in the shelter with their daughter since Wednesday.

“The water just hit us all at once,” Adam said.

The Laureano house was located between the Blanchard River and Eagle Creek. According to Riegle, this is the area that received the most flooding.

Although skeptical that the water would invade their house, Adam went to save a possession he holds dear – his album collection.

“I don’t know why, but that was the first thing I grabbed,” Adam said lightheartedly.

Despite everything they lost, the Laureanos realized they were lucky, expressing sympathy for those who would not be able to replace their belongings as easily.

“Friends have helped us replace what we’ve lost,” Lisa said. “No matter how bad you feel, there is someone else who has it worse.”

The couple has heard stories from other shelter residents without insurance, retirees on fixed incomes and people who were homeless before the flood and said they are grateful for the ability to rebuild.

Adam and Lisa were appreciative of all the shelter has provided for them.

“The shelter has cots, showers, food – what more could you ask for?” Adam said.

Evacuees have been pitching in and contributing in whatever way they can.

The Laureanos’ daughter, Tabitha, 15, woke up at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning to baby-sit children in a makeshift playground, complete with games and toys donated by the community.

Even the children themselves are helping out. A young boy with a smile on his face was struggling with a bucket half his size, moving toward the dining area.

Other volunteers from outside the shelter came to provide entertainment for evacuees. On Thursday night, a college-aged art student came to draw caricatures of children until forced to leave at lights out at 11 p.m.

A mother of one of the children drawn by the artist was overcome with tears, according to Lisa. The mother said the caricature was the only picture she now has of her daughter.

Carlos Casiano, a volunteer and local minister, praised the way so many people have come together in the wake of disaster.

“It has been no one individual effort,” Casiano said. “It has been countless people putting the word ‘unity’ back into community.”

Tim Sampson is city editor.

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