Having already been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the hits continued to come for some Delaware businesses this week as heavy rains led to considerable flooding in downtown shops late Monday evening into Tuesday morning.
Stores along the south block of downtown Delaware, between William and Spring streets, were most heavily impacted, and cleanup efforts have been underway since Tuesday to assist some owners with the mess.
Susie Bibler, executive director of Main Street Delaware, said “pretty much the whole south block had some sort of water in it.” She identified Honey & Abernathy, given the nature of their business as a retail store and the overall size of the building, in particular as having been most impacted. Bibler said of Honey & Abernathy on Tuesday, “It looked like an island in the middle of a lake.”
Bibler also listed The Backstretch, Real Big Puppy, and Ole Dog Alehouse and Brewery in particular as businesses that saw significant flooding.
“These businesses have been through so much already with having to be closed or not fully operational due to COVID-19. They’re already struggling financially because of those hardships, and now this (flooding) goes on top of it,” Bibler said.
Lee Yoakum, community affairs coordinator for the city, said Delaware has not seen this type of flooding since the flood of 1959.
Yoakum added the city is not sure if there was anything in particular that aided the flooding, but he said they will go along the Delaware Run to make sure “everything is functioning as it should be.”
He added, “The thinking is it was just a tremendous amount of rain that came down in a short period of time.”
The response from the community has been swift, with a strong volunteer presence on the scene immediately on Tuesday and on through the week to do their part in the cleanup. Bibler said she contacted the volunteers and board members of Main Street Delaware, as well as some local churches, to organize volunteers.
“It’s been amazing … just a couple of phone calls, basically, and we’ve had dozens of volunteers down here,” Bibler said.
A signup platform has been created on SignUpGenius for those who wish to volunteer to be able to do so. The signup sheet link can be found at www.signupgenius.com/go/4090a4dafac28a3fe3-downtown1 or on the Main Street Delaware Facebook page.
In addition to scrambling volunteers, Bibler said Main Street Delaware posted a Facebook Live video asking for cleaning supplies such as bleach, trash bags, gloves, buckets, fans, and more. She said the number of donations made was “really unbelievable,” to the point where they are now asking only for monetary donations if someone wishes to help.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller, who has partaken in cleanup efforts, called the volunteer effort her “favorite day since she’s lived in Delaware.”
“In the middle of a tragedy, in the middle of all of that, to see how this community came together was incredible,” Keller said. “Not a single person walked by and didn’t say, ‘How can I help?’ There wasn’t a need that we had that wasn’t met by someone. It was really incredible, and all in the middle of a pandemic.”
Main Street Delaware had already created a small business relief fund as a result of the pandemic, and with cleaning supplies now plentiful, they are asking for monetary donations that will be given in their entirety to support businesses. The fund has already received $10,000 in donations since Tuesday, although given the substantial damages sustained, far more is needed.
Bibler said she has contacted Sean Miller, executive director of the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency, to begin discussions about additional help the businesses could receive in addition to volunteers and donations. She said she has sent out a survey to affected businesses to assess the total damage done by the flooding.
Yoakum said city staff is already “doing some of the legwork to see what might be available” in terms of additional assistance. He said there could be possible legislation as soon as the next Delaware City Council meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26, that could introduce possible grants for businesses.
“It really was a haymaker punch,” Yoakum said of the flooding coming in the midst of the pandemic. “After some of these businesses were abruptly closed for two months … to open for two or three days and now be closed again for the foreseeable future, it just adds to the whole feeling that this is a surreal situation we’re in. You completely feel for the businesses and residents who have been impacted.”
However, while times seem to only be getting tougher for some, Yoakum said Delaware’s resiliency will ultimately shine through.
“We’re a tough city,” he said. “We’ve seen through the virus that we’re a city that stays together, and I think we’re going to see that again. We’re already seeing it.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.