Yet more flooding hits northern IN

Some January flood survivors face clean-ups all over again.

BY BOND BRUNGARD | Monticello, IN | February 6, 2008

"When there is work to do and in this community it will happen"

—Pastor Jim Ward, New Hope Lutheran Church

The muck-out, the initial cleanup from January’s flooding in Northern Indiana was nearly complete this week in some northern Indiana communities until when more heavy rain sent the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers spilling over their banks.

On Tuesday, residents along the Tippecanoe in White and Carroll counties were sent evacuation advisories as water below the Oakdale and Norway dams started to rise and flooded those areas hit by the January flood.

The Rev. Todd Ladd, pastor of the Dephi United Methodist Church, said there are fewer residents to evacuate this time. "A lot of folks haven’t moved back in yet," he explained.

The same conditions that caused January’s flooding -- lots of snow, cold temperatures followed by rising temperatures and heavy rains -- struck again this time after heavy rain washed away about 10 inches of snow that fell since the first of February.

Volunteers were arriving to help with the recovery after the planned closure of the muck-out from the January floods, but their services won’t be needed until the water recedes again.

“We won’t be doing that now,” Ladd, said of closing down the first muck-out.

Once the water recedes again, Ladd worries about the stress victims from the January floods and those who responded to help must go through next.

“And now we have the emotional toll,” he said.

A few weeks ago President George W. Bush issued a disaster declaration for nine northern Indiana counties flooded early in January, and now the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and many faith-based groups are planning the long term recovery.

FEMA is setting up disaster recovery centers in White and Carroll counties as well as putting mobile recovery units on the road in the other counties of Cass, Elkhart, Fulton, Jasper, Marshall, Pulaski and Tippecanoe to help those who have lost or are rebuilding homes.

Nearly 1,000 homes were affected by the flooding caused by revolving weather conditions, which have included freezing and spring-like temperatures, snow and heavy rains.

In Delphi, in Carroll County, FEMA has set up a disaster recovery center in a former middle school gymnasium, so representatives can meet with those needing assistance. It’s estimated that 300 homes were damaged in Carroll County.

Sandy Jasmund, a FEMA public information officer, said there will be a 60-day window for assistance and that the needs will be handled on a case by case basis. “We want to find out what kind of damage they had,” she said.

And FEMA’s assistance for individual damages will be determined on if or how much the applicant was insured. Jasmund said representatives from the federal Small Business Administration will be on hand to help applicants, whether residents or business people, finance their recovery.

The Rev. Jim Ward, pastor of the New Hope Lutheran Church in Monticello in White County, has been chosen to head a yet unnamed long-term recovery committee for the nine-county region, which is comprised of representatives from faith-based and governmental and volunteer agencies like the Habitat for Humanity from Lafayette.

Ward said the group will be meeting again soon to try and determine the long term needs. Ward has sought assistance from denominational organizations and will try and establish spiritual care teams to help survivors deal with stress that could possibly lead to suicide.

In the meantime, the community has been helping with clothing and funding donations. "When there is work to do and in this community it will happen," said Ward.

A shelter has been established in Remington, which served dozens of people for many days. In Rennselaer, about 30 homes were destroyed in a trailer park. Ward said money will be used to help survivors like these for their daily living and transportation needs.

The Rev. Brian Beeks, pastor the United Methodist Church in Monticello, in the past has worked to help flood survivors living in a shelter, and he said it’s tough, both emotionally and physically, for everybody involved.

"It’s just so exhausting," he said.

Beeks will be working with recovery in his community and will help coordinate hospitality efforts. Beeks said some people have been living in the second floor of homes that stood initially in four or five of water, and they will need assistance to return their residences to safe living conditions.

"We’re a community with one another and working together," said Beeks, of the long term effort.

As the recovery gets underway, Carroll County highway crews have been removing debris and a vendor registration program for prospective contractors has been established. And now the process of issuing building permits has started as homeowners try to get back under roofs again.

Dave McDowell, the director of Carroll County’s emergency management agency, said many families, with homesteads dating back generations, will probably be rebuilding in the same places in the low areas.

"They fully intend to stay there," he said. "And in some of the places, you shouldn’t have built a home in the first place."

As county and federal government agencies move forward, members and volunteers from The Delphi United Methodist Church have been involved in the initial muck-out process by helping residents return to safe and sanitary living conditions.

They have been assisted by a Southern Baptist disaster group with experience from the Hurricane Katrina cleanup. Kim Aldrich, an office administrator with the Methodist church and an interfaith liaison to Carroll County, said the Baptist contingent has helped train local volunteers with the filing of the proper paperwork needed with the recovery.

Aldrich said the experienced volunteers are also helping to establish the proper sanitation measures with the initial muck-out including advisement regarding the purchases of drywall and insulation products.

About 17 homes have been completed, and Aldrich said clean-up crews have had to deal with the same weather conditions, alternating spring and freezing temperatures, that preceded the flood last month.

"The furniture is frozen to the carpet," she said.

There has also been help from the First Presbyterian Church in Delphi, which opened its Deacon’s Closet to help with clothing needs. And a truckload of non-perishable food is being distributed from Camp Tecumseh, courtesy of Church of Christ volunteers, to families. Aldrich said families are receiving a four-five day supply of food from the large donation.

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