Watch For Sinkholes: Central Ohio Kept Busy Repairing Storm Damage | WOSU Radio

Watch For Sinkholes: Central Ohio Kept Busy Repairing Storm Damage

Jun 20, 2019

City and county agencies are fixing up roads in the aftermath of a storm that brought record rain and flash flooding, closing streets and highways in parts of Central Ohio.

In early June, Central Ohio saw less than an inch of rain and only a few days of showers. Since Saturday, though, it's rained every day in Columbus, an average of 1-2 inches of rain per hour.

NBC4 meteorologist Ben Gelber says this wetness has crept up over time.

“It’s not just about the last week or the last month. It’s about the last 18 months,” Gelber says. “Last year was the wettest year on record in Columbus, over 55 inches of rain edging out 2011. Now we’ve received 28 inches of rain already this year. That’s 9 inches above normal.” 

In fact, Columbus has gotten even more precipitation this year than the notoriously rainy city of Seattle. Over that time, Gelber says, the ground hasn’t had enough time to dry out.

“There’s just nowhere for the water to go. It just stays like a saturated sponge,” Gelber says. “At times we lose the topsoil moisture to evaporation, of course. But the water reserve is deep and it doesn’t take long to saturate the ground all over again.”

The impact of this month’s rain is even more pronounced because of the rise in total rain accumulation.

A Sinkhole Near Grove City

Certain areas of Central Ohio have been harder hit than others. Roads around Union and Logan counties were closed late Wednesday because of flash flooding. Some low-lying areas held more water, making roads impassable.

A neighborhood called Berry Hill in Jackson Township, right outside Grove City, had a particularly tough time. The heavy rain caused a large sinkhole to form, on Thursday morning some people gathered outside watching Franklin County officials do repairs.

One of the bystanders was Fran Day, who has lived in the same house for 53 years.

“My daughter called and said, ‘I just saw our house on TV.’ And I had just gotten up,” Day says.  

She says the heavy rain took out all the trees and shrubbery in her backyard.

“Oh, it feels terrible!” Day says. “Because we know that was holding the soil and it wasn’t. Now there’s nothing to protect our yard.”

Day’s neighbor Connie Wegener says she’s never seen so much rain in that area.

“Last night, the rain just kept coming and coming,” Wegener says. “In front of our house, it was flooded up to the neighbor’s house. The road, it was just a river.”

She’s grateful the sinkhole only formed on one side of the road.

“I took my son to work this morning, and I’m like, ‘What is going on!’” Wegener says. “And then I saw the hole there. At least we can get through.”

Better Days Ahead

According to the National Weather Service, Central Ohio is on a flash flood watch until 8 p.m. Thursday There is a chance of around 1 inch of rain per hour again Thursday night, so that could cause flash flooding issues to return.

But Gelber there’s good news for Friday.

“We’ll wake up to a very pleasant Friday morning with temperatures in the upper 50s,” Gelber says. “Especially north and west of town. And you’ll notice the humidity drop with a good deal of sunshine tomorrow.”