Maumee River Grand Rapids Flood outlook 2014 - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Special Report: The little town on the river, just waiting for the flood

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(Toledo News Now) -

February 2014: The first big rain is expected just 2 days after our area got dumped with about 4 inches of snow. This is on top of the record-smashing snow and cold we've had this winter. We're on track to break a record for all time snowiest season in Toledo's history. All this adds up to day to day headaches, road problems, school cancellations, and high heating bills – sure. But there's another consequence to this major snow year that's waiting for us this spring, or even earlier, and that's flooding. 

With high temperatures on the way (around 50 degrees) this flooding isn't going to happen "sometime." Individuals and cities alike need to be prepared now.

There are several places in our viewing area that could feel the effects of rising waters starting late in the winter and stretching all the way through spring, so we decided to profile a small town on the Maumee that could be in the line of fire for flooding.  

Grand Rapids. 

Sure, it's a small town, and there might be places who get hit harder. But this small town, full of antique shops and restaurant is nestled right on the mighty Maumee, which, at last check, was covered in ice. 

People in Grand Rapids know the power of the Maumee all too well. The downtown business district has been flooded several times… you can see how high the water was in 1904, 1913, and 1915. 

"You can't hold back the river. It's almost foolish to try to think that you can… because Mother Nature, there's a lot of force, especially when you add the ice to it."

Wood County EMA director Brad Gilbert says he's worried because "it's really an unprecedented situation that we have not seen in many years, in fact you could probably say decades."

If temperatures reach 50 or 60 degrees this week along – we will see rapidly melting snow pack. Rain is already forecasted, making the problem even worse.

And there's another major issue for Grand Rapids. Just to the west, the Maumee river is very wide, but narrows as it heads east into the village. 

The ice buildup creates a bottleneck, or "ice jam." If there's a major melt, water may have nowhere to go but into the downtown – on Front Street. 

You can see now – large chunks of ice, already bottled up. 

"If it happens fast enough," Gilbert says, we could be looking at "a flash flood, and that would be the worst situation."

Theresa Marie Frey owns ‘Miss Lily's' on Front Street. She knows it's coming. She'll be putting up sandbags outside and inside the restaurant. 

"Our place is lower than the alley back so it has to go somewhere," Frey says. "So it comes into our kitchen. So I know I'll have water in there." 

She's concerned that the flood water could rush through the door and damage things she's just had refurbished. 

Meanwhile, the EMA is monitoring the river levels and potential rainfall. 

Theresa Marie says Grand Rapids Firefighters promised to text her when the ice breaks up. In the meantime, she and other business owners need to prepare for the worst. 

The waiting can be nervewracking when you live along a river. But at least folks in Grand Rapids have a little time to prepare.  

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