On Sept. 14, 1979, rain from the remnants of Hurricane Frederic created flood waters that breeched an earthen levee protecting houses in the Blacklick Estates development.
It is a day that will stay in the memory of many residents of Blacklick Estates-some for the impact it had on them personally and their property, others for the water cascading down streets and for how emergency personnel relied on creative forms of transportation to reach stranded people.
Gary McDonald, a retired Madison Township police officer and now a Madison Township trustee, and his wife, Roxann, were a young married couple with small children at the time of the flood. The couple still lives in Blacklick Estates. Gary said the levee breech was a combination of rainfall and a creek unable to flow freely.
"Blacklick Creek was clogged up with debris, that was part of the problem and there was a lot of rain," said McDonald. "I remember having to patrol in rowboats. Citizens would take us out in their boats and others were volunteering their four-wheelers and ATVs for us to use to patrol the area. I had two feet of water in my basement. My father lived on Tyler Road and lost a lot of furniture and personal stuff. His walls had to be replaced."
Gary said there was a big dip in the road between Rodale and Tremain, with eight to 10 feet of standing water. He said kids used it as a makeshift swimming pond.
According to Roxann, the day of the flood was their daughter’s first birthday, but because of the weather emergency, the celebration had to wait while she and her children navigated the flood waters on foot to higher ground at her mother’s house, a little over a block away.
"Her house was completely dry," said Roxann, "but we had to walk through the river running through my street. A lot of the people close to the water tower had a lot of damage and most of the homeowners didn’t have flood insurance. A Columbus police officer who lived in the neighborhood had water up to the rafters in his basement and one of his basement walls collapsed. Everyone east of Clearwater was affected and the water was coming down Fullerton and going into the low-lying areas."
The McDonalds had recently remodeled their house when two feet of water swelled up and into their basement. Roxann said water swirled around the drain, but water actually oozed up through the concrete floor. She said the water was crystal clear, so it was evident it was not backing up from the drain.
"When it was over, the water in our basement went down overnight, but some people had to deal with it for days," said Roxann. "The township came around and picked up old furniture that people hauled out to the street because it was water damaged."
Bob Garvin, another long-time Blacklick Estates resident and former township trustee, said storm water came down Sedalia, but never crossed over the curb near his home.
"When they added houses to the Chatterton development, they built a holding pond, which helped," said Garvin. "Basically, the situation was just a tremendous amount of water."
State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers was Madison Township’s fire chief for only a year when the flood hit Blacklick Estates. He said the department needed to help a few people evacuate and only had to force someone from their home in a couple of situations.
Firefighters went house-to-house in some cases to check on the welfare of citizens, in addition to performing utility shut-offs for many property owners. Neighboring fire departments, including Hamilton Township and Columbus, provided boats and personnel and a command post was set up at the Sedalia shopping center.
"There were several streets where the water was flowing two to three feet deep. One Hamilton Township firefighter nearly got sucked into a basement because of the pressure when the wall collapsed and the foundation caved in at a house," said Flowers. "Thankfully, I don’t recall that there were any injuries from the flood."
"It was a crazy time," said Roxann.