Flooded roads dangerous for drivers; Wellington fire chief remembers first responder's death

WELLINGTON, Ohio - Heavy rain throughout northeast Ohio is prompting first responders to remind motorists not to drive through water while a state senator is attempting to pass a law that would fine careless drivers for venturing through flooded areas.

"Turn around and find another route," said Wellington Fire Chief Mike Weatherbee.

It's a warning that always hits close to home for Elyria resident Julie Farley.

"He was a fun-loving guy. He would help anyone and he just enjoyed life," said Farley, who spoke fondly about her husband Allan "Buz" Anderson. Anderson was also a Wellington firefighter and diver.

The 47-year-old's life was cut short seven years ago when he responded to a call that two teens were stranded on a flooded stretch of Pitts Road between Peck Wadsworth and Route 18 in Wellington.

"They got swept away, and they were clinging to things so they got called out to rescue them," Farley said.

When Anderson arrived, the teens were holding onto a tree with four feet of water below them.

But no one realized just how bad the conditions were in the area. The force of the water was so powerful that it pulled Anderson under and he drowned. The teens survived.

But under Ohio Sen. Tim Schaffer's (R-Lancaster) new bill, drivers would have to pay up if they ignore warning signs, pull into flooded roadways and emergency responders have to rescue them. The Senator introduced the bill in April. It had its first hearing before the Ohio Senate's Transportation Committee earlier this month.

"People are fooled by the forces of water and the impact it has on vehicles," Weatherbee said.

What angers Weatherbee the most is that his friend and colleague may still be here today had the teens just turned around and not ventured through the water.

"People, when they see water moving, they don't understand how fast the water is moving," he added.

What's also dangerous is what's underneath the water.

"The road could be washed away," he said.

Farley has since remarried, but the pain of losing her husband is still raw.

"[The teens] made a wrong decision," she said.

But she said it wasn't a struggle to forgive the two because Anderson would have easily done the same.

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