UNIONTOWN, Ohio – Sunday’s flash flooding was the last thing residents of Garden Lane Avenue in Uniontown wanted to see.
Homes are bordered by county drainage ditches intended to funnel runoff downstream into the Tuscarawas River.
But, homeowners say the ditches have been neglected for more than 20 years and instead funnel heavy rains into their backyards which are perpetually flooded.
Sunday’s storm dropped as much as four inches of rain across a large part of Stark County from Uniontown and Hartville, through Canton, North Canton, and Massillon.
The heavy rains have overwhelmed the ditches, sending rivers of water into the already saturated backyards.
“They are overgrown so much that no water can flow and this is the result of it: We get this water standing in the backyards so you can’t use the backyard,” said Gary Stine, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 40 years and says the last time the ditches were cleared was in 1997.
Ed Dvorak has moved much of his patio and lawn furnishings to his driveway because he cannot use his backyard.
“It was a lake. We bought water front property, unknowingly. Everything– the kids toys– were floating and wound up in other neighbors’ yards yesterday,” said Dvorak.
Though Sunday’s flash flood had mostly receded by Monday the yard was still far too muddy to use because of the persistent rains and the inability of the ditches to do their job.
“My backyard and most of my neighbor’s this year has been mostly unusable; you look around and you see the grass is very tall — the reason is you bring a lawnmower back here, they get stuck immediately,” said Dvorak.
“Mosquitoes, standing water, trying to deal with the county as far as trying to get them to fulfill their responsibility as far as dredging out their drainage easement out there,” said Steve Sombati, who has lived on the street for 20 years.
Across Stark County, Sunday’s flooding left people cleaning up.
In Sugar Creek, an apartment complex had to be evacuated on Sunday as water rose around it.
“I was wondering where we were going to go because nobody had any idea of where they were going to go. I think everybody had the same idea in their head, you know; this isn’t normal,” said Amanda Black.
In Massillon, residents of one apartment building on Valeside Drive were cleaning mud from their basements after water from an intense, but brief, storm rose waist high in their parking lot.
“Just kind of getting through everything, like you can see, I’m starting to bring some stuff up, going to put in some dehumidifiers down there and just go from there,” said Matt Sharver.
Part of Alabama Road over a drainage culvert had been washed away in Brewster.
Emergency Management Director Tim Warstler said much of the flash flooding had receded almost as fast as it rose as a result of Sunday’s storms.
The areas most affected were those in low-lying areas and under overpasses which are prone to flooding.
In Uniontown, however, residents said that although the rains have been unusually heavy this year, Sunday’s storm only illustrates that there is a desperate need for the county to do something with their drainage canals.
“We have all suffered the same situation; you can’t use the backyard just because of this,” said Stine.