Severe flooding follows rains
Coupled with ground saturation from a recent snowfall, two days worth of heavy precipitation last Tuesday and Wednesday dropped anywhere from four to six inches of rain in the area, swelling creeks and rivers out of their banks, closing several roads and forcing evacuations.
Hit hardest was Milltown, where, by early last Wednesday morning, several homes were being evacuated as the Blue River came out of its banks. The one-lane bridge there became impassable as water surrounded it. At 10:30 a.m., Milltown officials declared a state of emergency, and, by 4 p.m., the floor of the bridge was almost under water. The curved bridge on North Milltown Road, which had been closed earlier for repairs, was re-opened for emergency traffic only. All other traffic in and out of Milltown had to be routed to Speed Road.
The Crawford County Commissioners declared a state of emergency at about 2:25 p.m., as several roads in the county were affected by high water and at least one bridge was washed out.
‘We put everything we could on upper shelves,’ said Jayne Riddle, who, with her husband, Mike, owns Milltown Mini Mart. ‘We didn’t have a lot of time to get ready, but we did the best we could.’
About eight Milltown families were moved from their homes; some homes ended up with as much as four feet of water in them. An old barber shop building that sat near the river washed away and Castaways Restaurant, which sits just yards from the old dam, received extensive damage. The Blue River Caf’, Phillips’ Heating and Air Conditioning, the American Legion and the mini mart all had water in their buildings.
Members of the Milltown Volunteer Fire Dept. assisted in the town as needed.
Farther north, U.S. 150 in Fredericksburg was closed and most houses near the Blue River in that town were inundated by Wednesday morning.
In Harrison County, Bruce Eby, 50, who lives in the White Cloud area west of Corydon, was rescued by boat last Wednesday.
Eby and his wife, Roni, knew the nearby Blue River would likely flood their property. She got out, but he remained in their residence with their cats and exotic birds to try and save some belongings. By the time he completed his tasks, the car he was hoping to leave in was already partially submerged.
‘It came up really quick,’ Bruce Eby said of the Blue River.
He was willing to ride out the flood, but when the water was a couple of feet deep in the house, Eby’s wife decided it was time for him to come out. She called the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. to have her husband rescued.
Conservation Officers Mac Spainhour, Terry Allen, Gary Pennington and Dennis Talley, Officer Anthony Mills of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. and Harrison Emergency Management Agency Director Greg Reas made the rescue using an inflatable Zodiak boat that is designed for swift water rescue. By the time they got to Eby, there was about four to five feet of water in the house, Spainhour said. Eby had to exit the house through a first floor window.
A 500-gallon propane tank belonging to the Ebys was washed away by the water and ended up lodged in some trees about a quarter-mile downstream, and a Chevrolet Z-71 pickup belonging to the Ebys was also flooded.
The National Weather Service said the flooding in White Cloud was at the highest point ever recorded ‘ by almost a full foot ‘ Thursday afternoon.
Last Tuesday night, a family south of Palmyra, off Old East Road, had to be evacuated. Jessica Ollis and four juveniles had to be pulled from her home after rising water ‘ estimated by Conservation Officer Jim Hash at 10 feet deep in some spots ‘ threatened their safety.
‘The water was rising and surrounding the home on all sides,’ Hash said. ‘I don’t think it ever got high enough to enter the home, but they felt it was a safety concern so we removed them.’
Members of the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Dept. assisted in the rescue.
‘I think this could be a bad year for flooding because the ground is already saturated,’ Hash said. ‘If we get an inch or two here or there, we’ll likely have problems again.’
At Caesars Indiana, 50 to 60 workers remained at the 5,200-passenger vessel and hotel after the rising Ohio River forced the closing of the property Wednesday afternoon. A concert Friday by Creedence Clearwater Revisited was postponed to Sept. 14.
The Blue River finally crested about 7 a.m. Thursday and cleanup began almost immediately.
‘My mom and stepdad, Bob and Norma Bright, who live on Back Street (in Milltown), got most of their valuable stuff out,’ Jim Adamson said. ‘They’ve lived on the river for over 20 years, so they’re used to it. They just take it in stride anymore. As soon as the water goes down, we’ll be in there hosing everything down and cleaning up the mess.
‘I’ve been remodeling a small house next to theirs,’ he said. ‘Now, I guess I’ll just have to remodel it again.’
The Salvation Army set up a refreshment trailer behind the town hall for flood workers and displaced residents, and the Red Cross helped people find shelter and fill out documents for flood assistance and insurance purposes.
The entrance to the one-lane bridge in Milltown had been washed away, requiring the Crawford County Highway Dept. to make temporary repairs to it.
Tony Phillips was washing out and cleaning his store. The Riddles had cleaned the mini mart and were open for business. Blue River Caf’ officials already had people calling in for reservations and hoped to be ready for business by the weekend.
By Friday afternoon, most of the firefighters had gone home for showers and some much-needed rest. Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill visited the town late Friday afternoon but most of the cleanup had been completed.
Down at Caesars, security personnel said cars started lining up on S.R. 111 at 6:30 a.m. Sunday for that day’s anticipated 8 a.m. re-opening. Hess said despite the late start, attendance figures compared to last year’s Easter weekend were very comparable.
Though the casino and hotel have re-opened, one parking garage remained closed yesterday due to water and debris.
A slow moving front may become the focus for additional unneeded rainfall late today (Wednesday) through Friday along and north of the Ohio River. Depending on the track of the precipitation, up to an inch of additional rain could fall.