1,000 IN homes flooded

More than 1,000 homes in 15 Indiana counties have been affected by flooding that began July 4 and continues nearly a week later, according to a bulletin issued Thursday morning by the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | July 10, 2003


More than 1,000 homes in 15 Indiana counties have been affected by flooding that began July 4 and continues nearly a week later, according to a bulletin issued Thursday morning by the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency.

While flooding has receded in some of the hardest-hit areas, such as town of Kokomo, where upwards of 500 homes have been flooded, several other areas across the state are under water, including many areas along the St. Mary's and Wabash Rivers as well as on the banks of Wildcat Creek.

Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon declared 25 counties as disaster areas on Wednesday, and a request for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is awaiting possible approval from the White House.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, Church of the Nazarene, Mennonite Disaster Service, Salvation Army, Church World Service and other faith-based groups are sending funds and disaster recovery specialists to the hardest-hit areas.

The St. Mary's River in northern Indiana has reached its highest level ever, even beyond the flood stage measured in the Great Flood of 1913 "the most serious flood for the state of Indiana," said hydrologist Albert Shipe at the National Weather Service office in Indianapolis. Flooding along parts of the Wabash River is the worst since 1959, he said.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that the total effect of the recent flooding will turn out to be worse than the Great Flood, he said. Chances are it won't. For example, in Marion County, the home of Indianapolis, the flooding is pretty minor: the state emergency management bulletin listed 15 homes with minor flood damage there.

For the most part, the worst of the flooding in central and northern Indiana appears to be over, he said. Today marks the end of the rain for much of the state. "It appears to be over," Shipe said, "but we don't want to rule out anything."

Rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, however, brought flooding to new areas, and forced evacuations of hundreds of people.

In Fort Wayne, more than a hundred homes were evacuated beginning on Tuesday afternoon, as well as three apartment complexes and a retirement home, said Jennifer Gibson, spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne mayor's office. Flooding in the city has also put a damper on the annual "Three Rivers Festival," since two of those rivers, the St. Mary's and the Maumee, have gone out of their banks and flooded part of the festival grounds. But the flooding hasn't shut down the festival, just forced the relocation of some events as well as redirecting of the parade route. "The festival will go on as planned," Gibson said.

One town in Jay County New Corydon, which lies on the banks of the Wabash has been nearly submerged by floodwater, according to Julie Hankins, director of emergency services for the Hoosier Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross.

"All I know is that the only way in there is by boat," Hankins said. At least 22 homes in the town were flooded out and inaccessible by land routes, she said. According to the state emergency bulletin, the town only has 40 houses.

Flooding in the towns of Decatur and Bluffton was apparently contained, after furious sandbagging efforts on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Amy Gage, a dispatcher at the Decatur Police Department.

On the other hand, Tippecanoe County reported between 150 and 300 homes affected, said Bill Huffer, deputy director of emergency management. Both Miami and Wayne counties each reported at least 35 affected homes. But all reports were estimates, and Mike Peconga, director of the Miami County emergency management agency said, "There's so much damage out there, and we can't even see most of it. It's still underwater."

Moreover, southwester Indiana and southeastern Illinois are likely to see more and more flooding as northern Indiana sees less, according to NWS hydrologist Albert Shipe.

Shipe said "extensive flooding" is expected along the White River, and parts of Jennings County got more than six inches of rain in one day. A section of the Muscatatuck River rose more than 20 feet in 10 hours, he said.

All this rain will likely translate into "severe agricultural flooding" over the next week.

"So we have widespread problems in Indiana," Shipe said.


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