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Hundreds of IN homes damaged

Volunteers help some residents begin flood clean up, care for others still evacuated; official assessments continuing.

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | BALTIMORE | January 12, 2008

Streams and rivers are still rising in parts of Indiana where many hundreds of homes have been seriously damaged or destroyed in what weather observers are calling more than a 100-year flood.

Although damage assessments will continue into next week, Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday Indiana will ask for a Federal Disaster Declaration for "a very wide area of the state."

Repeat flooding Friday forced some residents who had begun to clean up, out of their homes again. "We couldn't get some places on Friday where we had been the day before," said the Rev. Todd Ladd, pastor of Delphi United Methodist Church in Carroll County.

Ladd said volunteers planned to continue to help flood survivors Saturday as they returned to their homes.

As the water began to recede in some areas faith-based organizations were planning their response. More than 500 flood buckets with cleaning supplies were distributed by United Methodist volunteers in Indiana Friday and Saturday and meetings were held Friday in Delphi and Monticello near some of the heaviest damage.

The flooding was the result of the deadly combination of heavy December rains, the New Year's snowstorm that left more than 8-inches of snow, 50-degree temperatures and nearly seven inches of rain on still-frozen ground. Three deaths have been blamed on the flooding.

New flood records have been set in many locations. "It was greater than a 100-year flood," Scott Morlock, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey said Friday.

The swollen rivers rose so rapidly it caught many residents by surprise.

An impromptu shelter was set up at the First Christian Church in Remington when water from the Tippecanoe River forced more than 50 families from their trailer homes at night, according to MaryAnna Speller of the United Church of Christ. The flood destroyed most of the trailers. The Presbyterian Church in Delphi was serving as a shelter for the American Red Cross.

At the peak of the flooding last week, the Red Cross opened seven official shelters.

Gary Peterson, North Indiana United Methodist Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, said many of the congregations of Indiana area churches will be asked Sunday to provide financial and material support to flood survivors.

The Rev. Brian Beeks, pastor of the Monticello UMC in White County said local faith community leaders met with the mayor and emergency responders Friday morning and expect to meet again Tuesday. Similar meetings were being held in nearby Carroll County according to Ladd.

Lower income residents, Beeks said, occupied many of the homes damaged in White County. Flood waters rose 3-feet higher than the record 1959 flood in that region.

Dave McDowell, Carroll County's interim emergency management director said Friday that 200 to 300 homes in that county meet the preliminary qualifications to be considered destroyed. Year-round residents occupied most of the homes.

According to Ladd, many of those impacted by the floods do not have, or cannot get flood insurance. "The flood insurance is too high or it is not offered because we live next to the river," said Pat Loner of Buffalo. Flood insurance with a home on the Tippecanoe River would reach as high as $1,000 per month, she added.

Weather forecasters warned Saturday that there would be a flood threat in parts of the region at least through Tuesday. And as residents return to their homes, they may be dealing with more than just mud and soggy belongings -- floodwaters laced with petroleum products including gasoline have been reported in several locations.

Emergency responders in Carroll County have been busy securing as many as 50 propane tanks dislodged by the floods, Ladd added.

The Indiana Volunteers Active in Disaster (INVOAD) discussed recovery plans Friday morning and is expected to confer again on Monday, Speller said.

Major flooding has also been reported in neighboring states.

In Illinois, more than 800 residents were evacuated from their homes in Iroquois and Livingston Counties in the east central part of the state.

Watseka was one of the hardest hit communities where emergency officials estimated that 70 per cent of the 2,300 homes in the city have been impacted. Emergency officials there said some of the residents will not be allowed to return home before Tuesday.

And in southern Michigan emergency officials were cautioning residents about rising rivers and streams.

-- Dan Gangler and Sharon Dunten also contributed to this story.


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