By Ed Runyan
Between 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday, the Mahoning River water level dropped from over 16 feet to 12 feet. By 5 p.m. Friday, it had dropped to 9 feet, which is below the 10-foot flood stage.
The fast-rising and fast-falling river caused severe flooding in the Meadowbrook Neighborhood along North Leavitt Road on Thursday afternoon, prompting the Warren Township Fire Department with help from other departments to evacuate 63 people from 28 homes.
People in another 13 homes refused to leave, Warren Township Fire Chief Kenneth Schick said.
By Friday morning, residents had started to return.
Meanwhile, Warren firefighters needed several hours late Thursday and the help of several agencies to rescue two men who floated down river from the Meadowbrook neighborhood in a canoe and a raft to Packard Park and got trapped in the river’s fast-moving waters.
Carole Lemasters of Meadowbrook Drive, who was taken from her home by firefighters in canoes at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, said this is the worst flooding at her home in at least 10 years.
Her son, Kyle Lemasters, said the water Thursday afternoon had almost completely filled the house’s 6-foot basement. Outside the house, the water had risen about 3 feet to nearly the top of the steps on the front porch.
By 9 a.m. Friday, when the Lemasters family returned, the three-foot water had left, leaving behind large puddles.
The Lemasters family, which has been through many floods during their 24 years there, moved everything from the basement to the porch when it became apparent the floodwaters were coming, Kyle Lemasters said.
But it’s likely that the flooding damaged two rototillers in the garage, as well as electrical and air tools, he said. Electricity, which had been turned off Thursday, had been restored to the neighborhood by Friday evening.
Despite the repeated flooding, Carole Lemasters said she has no plans to move.
“This is my home. It’s paid for, and I’m not leaving. It may not be much, but it’s mine.”
Warren firefighters received a 911 call at 7:25 p.m. Thursday from Eric Lowenkamp of Leavittsburg, who used a waterproof phone to say he and Herbert Holliday of Warren were trapped in the river near Packard Park.
The men said they had gone into the river on a recreational trip.
Lowenkamp was rescued first in a fire department boat at 8:43 p.m. But Holliday was more difficult to retrieve because of the fast-moving currents, said Capt. Rick Yauger of the Warren Fire Department.
Because the fire department boat didn’t have a large motor on it, it couldn’t reach Holliday, Yauger said.
Help was received from the Portage County Swift Water Resources team, the Bazetta Fire Department, a Stat Medivac helicopter and the Trumbull County Hovercraft, which brought Holliday to shore at 10:48 p.m.
The men said they were in the river for fun, but got sucked into the current by accident. Yauger said they finally called for help because of fears that they would run into dangerous conditions south of Packard Park.