By Paula Schleis
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Summit County Dive Team was searching Thursday evening for a boy who was swept away in rain-swollen Mud Brook behind Timber Top Apartments off Portage Trail.
Three people jumped in after the boy, who was about 11 years old, but they could not find him. The boy’s name was not immediately available.
Kameron Williams, 21, who also lives at Timber Top, said he heard the boy’s sister yelling that her little brother was autistic and needed help.
Williams said he saw the boy’s head bob in the water, so he took off his shoes and jumped in after him.
“I figured the best way to get him was to follow him into the river,” Williams said.
Kaila Watkins, 22, said she never saw the boy, but the sight of the screaming girl and Williams jumping in was enough to motivate her. She called to her brother, Phil, 23, and they both jumped into the rushing water.
On most days, the waterway in Akron’s Merriman Valley neighborhood amounts to a small creek. Bystanders said they have walked across it.
But after Wednesday’s flood-producing rain, Mud Brook turned into a fast-moving river.
“It was about 5 feet deep,” Kaila Watkins said. “It was a really strong current, but we’re all good swimmers.”
Asked if she was worried about their safety, Kaila replied: “No. The point was to get to the boy.”
The three would-be rescuers said they were able to stop from time to time and poke around areas along the shore, but ended up riding the current almost a half-mile to where the brook slips beneath Akron-Peninsula Road and merges into the Cuyahoga River.
They climbed out of the water when Akron police, fire and EMS started arriving just before 6 p.m.
Officials were unsure if the boy fell or jumped into the water.
Authorities closed the road while teams looked for the missing boy. Some teams were dispatched to other locations along the Cuyahoga River but commented that a person could be dragged downstream for a long distance.
“I hope he’s OK, but you’ve got to be realistic,” said Williams, shivering and drenched as he waited by the river at least a couple of more hours.
“Until they find him, we’re not giving up hope,” Phil Watkins added.
Rainfall above normal
The National Weather Service reported that Wednesday’s rainfall brought Akron-Canton’s total to 4.97 inches for July — 3.66 inches above normal.
The Akron-Canton area has had 23.14 inches of rain since Jan. 1 — 2.27 inches above normal.
River breaks record
The Cuyahoga River rose Wednesday to its highest point ever in Cuyahoga Falls — even surpassing the 1913 flood.
The river crested at 14.28 feet, well above the 11.8 feet recorded a century ago, Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said.
“That’s amazing,” she said.
The river also was moving fast. Gauges measured the water traveling at more than 5,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday.
Optimal speed is 200 cubic feet per second. By Thursday afternoon, the measurement was still 3,510 cubic feet per second.
“I don’t even remember when we’ve seen numbers like that,” Carr said.
Dam removal delayed
Cuyahoga Falls officials said the Sheraton Dam removal project remains on hold because of the fast-moving water. It’s unclear when that project will begin.
“We’re getting back on track today and we’re glad to see the sunshine,” Carr said Thursday. “We’re hoping that we get dry weather for the next couple of days.”
Lock 3 wall washes away
A concrete retaining wall at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron washed away.
It was located between the park’s stage and the Ohio & Erie Canal, Akron spokeswoman Stephanie York said.
The affected area is fenced off, and the city will try to determine the best remedy after this weekend’s Italian-American Festival, she said.
Akron announced Thursday that curb-service customers can put flood-damaged items and materials at the street where their trash normally is placed, and by calling 311 (or 330-375-2311) can schedule a free pickup.
Normally such items cannot be placed at the curb sooner than 4:30 p.m. the day before normal pickup, but because of the severity of the storm, that rule has been waived until July 26.
City officials encouraged people with wet and damaged material to bring them out of their homes as soon as possible and place them at the curb.
The special pickups won’t count against the three special pickups the city offers its customers each year.
Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, on Thursday closed 22 miles of the popular Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that it oversees in Summit County. The Towpath Trail is closed from Lock 29 in Peninsula north to the Station Road Bridge Trailhead.
The Lock 29 Trailhead in Peninsula also was closed, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad did not make runs because sand washed from a culvert near North Howard Street in Akron. Crews had to remove the sand.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Beacon Journal staff writers Bob Downing, Jim Carney and Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report.