Volunteers rush to help Roger Bacon High School, Norwood, St. Bernard schools after Sunday's deluge

Volunteers flood in to help deluged schools
Posted at 4:22 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-30 10:03:08-04

NORWOOD, Ohio -- As soon as Roger Bacon High School announced that school was canceled Monday due to unprecedented flooding, the phones started ringing.

"We had alumni here at 2 a.m. lifting tables and chairs," Principal Steve Schad said.

By sunrise, they were joined by others toting water pumps and massive fans to start drying out the flooded chapel, cafeteria and bookstore.

"Thank God for our alumni. We were just deluged with phone calls from faculty and alumni asking how they could help," Schad said.

Cleaning up at Roger Bacon. Terry Helmer | WCPO

That spirit of pulling together was also prevalent at Norwood City Schools, where Superintendent Rob Amodio and a crew of volunteers worked through the night to counter major damage.

"By about 10 p.m. here I knew we had a big problem with about three to four feet of water," he said. "(We had) a lot of people working all night and a bunch of people since about 7 a.m. this morning doing everything we can to get the building clean."

They were all fighting the after effects of an historic deluge of rain that hovered right over St. Bernard and Norwood, which recorded 4.41 inches of rain Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

Devastation at St. Bernard-Elmwood Place

St. Bernard-Elmwood Place had an estimated four feet of water in its junior-senior high school, which will be closed indefinitely.

The school suffered major losses, including many books, science lab materials and a large freezer full of meat. Its two elevators were flooded and are now inoperable.

Even the truck used to deliver food between schools was destroyed in the flood.

"It must have looked like Noah's Ark," said Superintendent Mimi Webb, who worked through the night and day. "And then we have families who lost everything. I'm just so proud of my staff. They were out at people's houses helping them."

St. Bernard-Elmwood's elementary school was untouched and will reopen tomorrow, and the cafeteria will be stocked with makeshift meals.

Webb said the school district cannot accept food donations but can accept money.

The Hamilton County ESC Learning Center in Norwood also canceled school Monday due to flooding. Greg Hester, executive director of human resources, said the school closed because of flooding in three classrooms.

It reopened Tuesday morning after custodians cleaned up the classrooms.

"I think we got away a lot luckier than others," he said.

Covington Catholic High Schoolalso canceled classes Monday due to a lightning strike that knocked out electricity until last Monday morning. That school, high on a hill and miles from the storm's epicenter, suffered no flood damage.

Norwood and St. Bernard weren't nearly as lucky, as dramatic footage of streets turned into rivers demonstrated.

Schad was unsure whether Roger Bacon's flood damage and an inspection of fire suppression and electrical systems would be completed in time to open school Tuesday.

While Roger Bacon had to deal with the effects of the historic 1937 flood of the Ohio River that backed up into the nearby Mill Creek, the school has not ever been flooded as severely as it was Sunday night to Schad's knowledge.

"I haven't talked to anybody who said anything like this happened before," he said.

Even worse, the 9-year-old artificial turf at Roger Bacon's historic Bron Bacevich Stadium suffered severe damage when 18 inches of water enveloped it.

RELATED: More about Roger Bacon's stadium's damage

Roger Bacon and St. Bernard high schools are scrambling to reschedule games while the damage is assessed. Monday night's girl's soccer match between Roger Bacon and Reading was moved to St. Ursula, the first of many adjustments.

At Norwood, Amodio said the torrent of rain carried debris into the cafeteria and other ground-floor rooms.

Classes will be canceled at least through Tuesday as a result.

"We’re working with the Norwood Health Department to make sure as we’re cleaning things and everything is disinfected before we bring our kids back in," he said.

Amodio said the high school, which opened in 1972, has never seen flooding like this.

Norwood Middle School Principal Kathy Sabo surveyed the many volunteers working together to clean up her flood-damaged school and expressed gratitude.

"There are all kinds of teachers and other faculty members that are here to be helpful, and that's the beauty of Norwood," she said. "We’re a community, so of course we all pitch in to help each other."

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