Add your thoughts: Flood tales

How bad did Saturday's flood waters get?

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Flood disaster list grows

Star report
Posted: June 8, 2008
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Update: Westbound I-70 closes again

Westbound Interstate 70, reopened after more than a day of repairs to a flood-related washout near the 30 mile-marker, closed again tonight.

�A substantial delay is again expected� before the westbound lanes reopen, Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police said in a statement.

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Traffic is being diverted to U.S. 40 at the Cloverdale (U.S. 231) exit. Traffic can get back on the highway at Indiana 59, the Brazil exit.

�The roadway began to collapse after emergency repairs were conducted today from previous erosion due to flooding,� Watts said.

Eastbound I-70 is open. State troopers are assisting with traffic direction.

- John Strauss

Update: Use caution during the cleanup, health officials say

As if the flooding itself wasn�t bad enough, Indiana health officials are warning people to beware of disease threats in some of the water.

Among the suggestions today:

- People in flooded areas should make sure they are up to date on their tetanus immunizations.

- If exposed to floodwaters, wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water. For household cleaning after floodwater contamination, disinfect all surfaces. One simple method: A solution of chlorine bleach diluted with clean water.

- Assume that wells in flooded areas are contaminated.

- Standing water that remains after the flood has receded offers a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. Use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

- John Strauss

5:40 p.m. update: Cummins facilities damaged

Cummins Inc. says some of its Columbus facilities have suffered significant damage in this weekend�s flood, and three will be closed at least for Monday.

�The Cummins Technical Center, the Cummins Child Development Center and the Cummins Occupational Health Center - are all closed tomorrow, and probably beyond,� spokesman Mark Land said today.

A statement from the company said floodwaters reached a depth of 3 feet in the first floor of the technical center. The Occupational Health Center had extensive damage to its lower level.

�Cummins Industrial Center employees in Seymour were sent home today in accordance with guidance from Jackson County public safety officials for residents to travel only in case of emergency,� the company statement said.

�The Columbus Engine Plant suffered extensive flooding to its basement level on the south side of the facility, but the Company hopes to begin limited production using temporary power late this afternoon.�

- John Strauss

5:07 p.m. update: Flooding offers cover for crooks

Police had their hands full with traffic control and rescues during the flooding.

In Columbus, for instance, officers were headed today to evacuate 25 people from the Travel Lodge and Holiday Inn near the intersection of Indiana 46 and Interstate 65.

Today's pictures: Franklin area flooding

Edinburgh flooding

The scene in Columbus

But there were other concerns as well � including thieves using the disaster as an opportunity to plunder.

Indiana conservation officers pulled guard duty in Terre Haute last night, according to an update from the state Department of Homeland Security.

�Four DNR boats used spotlights to provide security at International Village in Terre Haute following reports of looters using inner tubes to access the area,� the statement said.

In Seymour, troopers and city police set up checkpoints as the high water moved into Jackson County and residents fled.

�State and city police officers are continuing to man traffic control points in Seymour and are only allowing local residents with verified identification into flooded housing areas,� the state advisory said.

- John Strauss

4:29 p.m. update: I-70 cleared; Guard opens six armories

Westbound Interstate 70, closed since 9 a.m. Saturday after rushing water undermined part of the highway west of Indianapolis, reopened late this afternoon.

Traffic had been diverted at the Cloverdale exit while repairs were made.

Vehicles were sent to U.S. 40, which became congested with the extra traffic.

Elsewhere, help continued to pour into flooded sections of southern and western Indiana.

The National Guard opened armories in Martinsville, Greencastle, Brazil, Terre Haute, Bloomington and Danville to support flood-relief efforts.

�The Indiana National Guard currently has 530 soldiers and airmen providing flood relief support in Southern Indiana. Members of the Indiana National Guard have traveled from 20 different units to locations in Bartholomew, Johnson, Knox, Morgan and Vigo counties,� Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson said in a statement.

The soldiers and airmen are providing drinking water, search and rescue and security operations in Bartholomew County. They helped evacuate more than 100 patients from flooded Columbus Regional Hospital.

"We will continue to work to support our citizens in their time of need,"
Brig. Gen. Margaret Washburn said.

- John Strauss

3:55 p.m. update: Police seek more information in flood death

So far the flooding has been blamed for only one fatality - a man trying to return to his home through high water Saturday morning who died when the strong current swept him away.

Officials are seeking more information about the family of Ernest Wilmer, 54, who lived in the community of Flat Rock near Columbus.

Wilmer was trying to reach his home through the high water. Police in the area told him to stay with his vehicle, but he left it and was swept into a row of trees, where police found him, said Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher.

Fisher asked that anyone with information about Wilmer�s family call the Bartholomew County Coroner's office at (812) 379-1515.

A second death was related to � but apparently not caused by � the flooding.

Authorities said a Columbus man hit a deer as he rode his motorcycle out of the flood zone about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Brian Davis, 40, was thrown from the bike and then hit by another vehicle.

Davis lived in the Candlelight Village mobile home park, which flooded after Saturday�s heavy rain. He was leaving the area and trying to drive to his mother�s house via I-65 when the accident happened on the highway, said Sgt. Robert Hedger of the Indiana State Police.

Hedger said the other vehicle, an SUV, left the scene after hitting Davis.

- Francesca Jarosz

3:30 p.m. update: Governor adds more counties to disaster list

Gov. Mitch Daniels has now declared 23 counties disaster areas following a helicopter tour of flood-inundated communities this morning.

Daniels said that while flood waters from the torrential rains that hit already water-logged Central Indiana were quickly receding, the concern has shifted to counties in Southern Indiana, downstream from Columbus, Martinsville and Terre Haute.

"As water runs downhill, south into places like Jackson County, we've added them to the (disaster) list," he said. "Emergency response people are doing a great job of trying to act ahead of events, now that we have a little better clue where additional problems may be. They're working at downstream communities both to prepare against the rise of water ... and to alert people that they may want to be prepared to move before they have to be fetched from a roof or a car."

Daniels said the state will apply for federal disaster assistance, which he said will likely be granted. He said he already has seen some employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Indiana.

Many people impacted do not have flood insurance, he noted.

"And for good reason," he said. "Because they don't live in flood plains. I talked to several families who had applied for flood insurance or had asked about it and were told it's just not necessary or even available. But that's where the assistance of a compassionate nation may well come into play. There's very signficant cash as well as extremely generous loan programs available that will help people get back into good housing."

In his tour, Daniels said he saw "what is now a famliar sight: Hoosiers being incredibly caring about each other and Hoosiers being tough in adversity."

He praised the work of state employees and the National Guard, who are assisting in the rescue efforts, but said that after the state knows everyone is safe it will evaluate the response to see where improvements in the response can be made.

- Mary Beth Schneider

3 p.m. update: It�s official - Edinburgh records nearly 11 inches

How bad was it? The line of storms that stalled over southern and western Indiana on Friday night and Saturday morning dumped staggering amounts of rain on communities across the region.

Today the National Weather Service released the official tally: Edinburgh, with 10.94 inches of rain by 7 a.m. Saturday, had the most moisture.

A spot three miles south of Paragon was second, at 9.85 inches, followed by Spencer at 9.8. Martinsville had 8.8 inches, Terre Haute 6.83 and Mooresville 6.37.

That was bad enough, but a chance of thunderstorms was back in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday in Morgan and Johnson counties.

"If you get another inch or so of rain where they've already had 11 inches of rain, it doesn't help their situation, but it doesn't return to flooding anywhere near what they already saw," weather service Hydrologist Al Shipe said.

Part of southern Indiana from Spencer to Edwardsport could see high water as bad or worse than record flooding in 1913.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Shipe said.

- John Strauss, with AP reports

2:15 p.m. update: Hundreds evacuated in Seymour

A day of dry weather was welcome news to residents of 21 Indiana counties where disaster declarations have been made.

But the effects from 10 inches of rain in southern Indiana continue to be felt even with the sunshine: Sandbagging continues in Johnson, Clay, Vigo, Owen, Greene, and Monroe counties.

This afternoon, the focus was quickly shifting downstream to Jackson County, where the water was rising.

About 500 people were being evacuated today from the west side of Seymour. At the Little Acres housing addition near Indiana 11, about 30 homes were evacuated.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, meanwhile, toured the flood zone by helicopter, stopping first in Columbus, which was virtually isolated after high water closed Indiana 46 at I-65 and other roads.

Daniels also made stops in Martinsville, Paragon and Terre Haute, joined by Joe Wainscott, the Department of Homeland Security director.

- John Strauss


1:30 p.m. update: DNR officer hurt, Medora shelters open

A state conservation officer suffered a head injury as authorities worked to evacuate residents in Bartholomew and Jackson counties.

�One officer collapsed and sustained a head injury, likely due to exhaustion and dehydration,� the state Department of Homeland Security said in a statement this afternoon.

�He was transported to the hospital in Seymour. He is conscious and alert.�

The officer�s name and other details of the incident were not immediately available.

The Department of Natural Resources sent 16 of its conservation officers with boats to Columbus late Saturday night.

Between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. today they rescued 35 to 40 residents in southern Bartholomew and northern Jackson counties.

The agency has 22 officers in the area today with 10 johnboats and two air boats.

In the Jackson County community of Medora, meanwhile two emergency shelters were set up. Authorities said this afternoon that U.S. 50 was still open.

- John Strauss


11:56 AM -- Evacuation preperations in Jackson County

The Jackson County sheriff today urged people living in flood-prone areas to make preparations to leave their homes.

Residents need to make sure the have a safe evacuation route to shelters, Sheriff Marc Lahrman said. Red Cross Shelters are set up at the Seymour Middle School and Brownstown Middle School.

Any one living near the White River has to be ready to leave at a moment�s notice, said Lahrman.

The Jackson County Commissioners issued a state of emergency restricting travel to evacuation or emergency services.

Jackson County is about 65 miles south of Indianapolis.

-- Tom Leyden

11:10 AM -- Flooding claims one life, three missing

One person is confirmed dead in Bartholomew County and as many as three could be missing after record flooding swamped southern sections of Central Indiana Saturday, according to Indiana's Department of Homeland Security today.

State police said a person on the northside of Columbus drove into high water, got out of a vehicle and was swept away on Saturday morning. State Police Sgt. Donald Gregory, stationed in Seymour, said he did not have more details on the victim's gender or identity.

Gregory said rescue crews are searching for another individual in Columbus after one of two people was rescued from a stranded vehicle Saturday night. Gregory said water in the White River's East Fork is rising about four inches an hour in Seymour and is expected to crest Monday at about six feet above normal.

State Police Sgt. David Bursten said two people fell off an airboat while cruising floodwaters. One swam to safety and the other is missing, he said. Bursten said the incident happened on Little Point Creek but was uncertain about the county where it occurred.

There was some confusion at homeland security, which first reported a fatality on I-70 near Little Point Road in Morgan County, southwest of Indianapolis, but then later said that the death was unconfirmed. John Erickson, a spokesman there, said he was not certain if that person is considered missing.

Bursten said about 530 National Guard members are assisting the state police and other rescue workers with tasks ranging from sandbagging and traffic control to evacuations and search and rescue operations. He said the Guard is also helping in Columbus with water buffaloes -- portable containers of clean water -- in areas where water filtration systems have been overwhelmed.

The evacuation of Columbus Hospital began last night is complete, he said. He had no further information on whether about 1,500 people in the town of Prince's Lakes were still stranded after the community's only bridge washed out Saturday.

"We're urging people not to go sightseeing in the affected area or they'll become part of the problem," Bursten said. "For those stranded but safe, stay there and call us."

Erickson said 21 counties in Central Indiana have been declared disasters after the White and Wabash rivers experience record flooding. Rescue operations are ongoing in Johnson, Morgan and Bartholomew counties.

About 150 residents of a nursing home in Morgan County were evacuated, Erickson said. He said more rain forecast over the next couple of days won't help the situation.

"We're doing all that we can," he said. "We're gonna handle whatever gets thrown at us by Mother Nature."

Gregory said that Medora, a town in Jackson County down the White River faces flooding.

�They have a little a time, but they need to be using it wisely," he said.


-- Brendan O'Shaughnessy

9:05 AM -- High water forces 400 from Columbus shelter

About 400 people taking shelter at Columbus East High School had to be evacuated at 3 a.m. today when the building set up to provide safety began to experience its own flooding.

State police Sgt. Donald Gregory, a public information officer in Seymour, said the people at Columbus East were evacuated to Columbus North High School. He said there are about 1,000 people in five Red Cross shelters in Columbus.

"There are probably still going to be some more coming in today," Gregory said. "The waters have gone down significantly but there's a boil advisory, so people are likely to come in for water and basic supplies."

Gregory said State Road 31 is open through Columbus but that people other than emergency workers are advised not to come into the city. He said the high water is moving south, hitting southern Bartholomew County now and approaching Seymour.


-- Brendan O'Shaughnessy

9:03 am -- Forecasters issue flood warnings

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning this morning for Hendricks County, northern Johnson county, Marion County, northern Morgan County and central Putnam County. The warning expires at 8 p.m.

Flooding continues across streams and creeks. No additional rain is expected for 24 hours.

The warning means flooding is imminent or has been reported. Water will rise slowly and flash flooding is not expected, forecaster said.

Dangerous flooding continues throughout south-central Indiana and travel is discouraged, forecaster said.

-- Tom Leyden

8:42 AM -- Westbound I-70 still closed at Cloverdale

State police this morning said that westbound Interstate 70 is still closed at the Cloverdale exit this morning but that they have set up a detour route.

The eastbound lanes are still open. Large trucks had been allowed to drive through water rushing over the highway Saturday until one was washed off the road. Police officials said they do not know when the westbound lanes will re-open.

-- Brendan O'Shaughnessy

8:17 AM -- Red Cross shelters taking in victims

The American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis has set up five shelters to help people fleeing their homes after massive flooding hit parts of Central Indiana.

Ann Gregson, a resource development manager for Red Cross, said this morning that the aid organization is still in the emergency phase. Two shelters in Martinsville in Morgan County took in about 280 people Saturday, she said.

In hard-hit Johnson County, Red Cross set up another shelter at Indian Creek Elementary, Gregson said. A Shelter at the Community Church of Greenwood had up to 40 people at one time and took in 17 people for overnight stays.

Gregson also said the Indianapolis chapter is mobilizing volunteers and resources to help the chapter in charge of Bartholomew County, where the city of Columbus was split in two Saturday by surging water.

-- Brendan O'Shaughnessy

8:11 AM -- Columbus hopsital evacuated

Rising water forced the evacuation of nearly 100 patients from Columbus Regional Hospital on Sunday.

Hundreds of hospital employees, emergency workers and volunteers launched began removing patients about 4 p.m., the Columbus Republic reported.

School buses, helicopters and ambulances moved 98 hospital patients to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Kings Daughter in Madison and Clark Memorial in Jeffersonville.

-- Tom Leyden

7:34 AM -- Flood waters flowing south

Flood waters began to recede in south-central Indiana today under sunny, clear skies.

However, the water was rolling south threatening southern Bartholomew and northern Jackson counties, WTHR (Channel 13) reported this morning. There were up to 10 water rescues in an hour in Jackson County.

Water was starting to recede in Columbus where they city had virtually been cut in half by water and separated families. Overnight, about 450 people took shelter in one middle school. Restaurants and businesses donated food to the shelter.

Flood relief work today will be grueling. It will humid with a high of 90.

-- Tom Leyden

This story will be updated.

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A heavily damaged Jeep lies behind the Franklin Police Department and Parkside Apartments. The water in the background was the Province Park baseball diamond. - Matt Kryger / The Star

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