Disaster declared in Indiana flooding
Homeowners return to find mess; others wait for crest
The Associated Press, July 11, 2003
WILLSHIRE, Ohio, July 11 -- President Bush issued a disaster declaration Friday for 25 counties in storm-ravaged Indiana as flood water began receding from hundreds of homes there and in neighboring Ohio. The disaster declaration triggered the release of federal money to help victims of the heavy rain, tornadoes and flooding that have plagued northern Indiana and Ohio.
After a week of thunderstorms, the area's forecast was finally improving Friday, said Indiana Emergency Management Agency spokesman Alden Taylor.
"We are holding our own," he said. "It's not getting worse, and it is getting better, but it is getting better slowly."
The St. Marys River had dropped to about 25 feet Friday morning at Decatur, Ind., after cresting at 27 feet Wednesday, and the National Weather Service said it should fall below its flood stage of 17 feet on Sunday.
"IT'S JUST A MESS"
Ten miles to the southeast, in the St. Marys River town of Willshire, wooden pallets and steel drums from the town's general store floated by as Rhonda Hunt surveyed the muddy water that flowed through her back yard.
Returning home Thursday for the first time in two days, Hunt found the flooding had ruined air conditioners, snow blowers and other equipment she was forced to abandon in her garage.
"It's just a mess. It's upsetting," Hunt said. "You don't want to give your home up."
Flooding from the St. Marys damaged about 1,300 homes in Indiana, many south of a line stretching roughly from Fort Wayne to Lafayette.
"How do you clean this up?" asked Jim Hopkins as he poured fuel into the pump draining water from his flooded basement. "What do I do about my furnace, my water heater, my washer and dryer? How do you even clean those things up and use them? I don't know."
South of Willshire in Mercer County, where 100 people have been evacuated, more than 15 inches of rain had fallen since last Friday, officials said.
NEW DEATH IN INDIANA
In Ohio, no major injuries or deaths were reported. Indiana, however, has had four storm-related death since July 4.
On Thursday, Edward Bowman, 30, died after he tried to rescue the driver of an all-terrain vehicle that was swept away by floodwaters on the Wabash River south of Fort Wayne, authorities said. The ATV's driver managed to climb out of the water.
Almost 3,000 homes scattered across Indiana and Ohio were evacuated. Hundreds of acres of low-lying areas were covered in water.
Indiana and Ohio residents living next to rivers other than the St. Marys weren't lucky enough to see the waters go back into their banks.
In the suburbs north of Indianapolis, the White River was at 17 feet and was expected to crest Friday. About 30 people were asked to leave their homes Thursday just north of Indianapolis in Noblesville.
NOT OVER YET
Officials expected similar situations in coming days downstream to the south. Along the upper Wabash River in northern Indiana, the scenario was much the same.
"The people along the river have to wait a while yet," said Al Shipe, a National Weather Service hydrologist.
Shipe expected much of the flooding along the White would be limited to riverside farmlands.
Rainfall amounts were less than an inch Thursday for much of both states, and more relief was in sight Friday.
That optimistic forecast was giving many people hope, but not Kevin Krick. He said the sandbags piled five high around his mother's home in hart-hit Decatur, about 20 miles south of Fort Wayne, were not coming down until the river returned to its banks.
"Who says that it won't come right back with the next rainfall?" he said. "Anyone who takes the sandbags down before then is crazy."Ohio Lake Overflow Threatens Businesses
The Associated Press, July 8, 2003
MONTEZUMA, Ohio -- Water roared over a spillway Tuesday from a rain-bloated reservoir, flooding the area downstream and threatening businesses after the latest in a series of thunderstorms that have battered the Midwest.
Rivers hit record levels Tuesday in Indiana, and some roads in Ohio and northern West Virginia were closed by flash flooding and mud slides.
Grand Lake St. Marys, surrounded by a state park and vacation homes, "keeps rising and rising," said Wanda Dicke, deputy director of the Mercer County Emergency Management Agency. "It's just overflowing like you wouldn't believe. It's doing some major, major flooding."
Water spilling from 21-square-mile Grand Lake St. Marys threatened a doctor's office and radio station, Dicke said. No one had been evacuated from this northwest Ohio village of nearly 200 residents but "it's getting real close."
Thunderstorms swept across Indiana and Ohio into Pennsylvania and West Virginia on Tuesday. It was the fifth straight day of storms across the Midwest and the National Weather Service said more storms were likely this week.
Flooding and mud and rock slides closed up to 25 roads in northern West Virginia after heavy rain early Tuesday, and an estimated 125 people evacuated their homes, Monongalia County Emergency Services Director Ron Kyle said.
About 20 miles upstream from Rockford at Decatur, Ind., the St. Marys River hit a record flood level of 26.54 feet Tuesday, passing the mark of 26.5 feet set in 1913, Mayor Fred Isch said. Flood stage at Decatur, some 20 miles south of Fort Wayne, is 17 feet.
"We've got people leaving their homes, roads are flooded over and people can't get to certain people," Isch said. "We have some people in houses who are kind of on islands right now."
"We've got water in places I've never seen before," the 70-year-old mayor said. "We've been sandbagging now for two days."
Thousands of homes and businesses have lost electrical service during the days of rough weather, including 172,000 American Electric Power customers in central Ohio.
More than 58,000 customers across northern Indiana remained without power Tuesday.
Along the St. Marys in northwest Ohio, sandbagging was under way in the village of Rockford, where 50 to 60 residents of a mobile home park had left their homes Monday.
Several roads around Ohio were blocked by high water early Tuesday, and some county officials threatened to arrest anyone who ignored barricades and drove onto flooded roads.
In Illinois, more than 380,000 customers lost power during weekend storms in the Chicago area. Golf-ball-sized hail was reported in Arlington Heights and wind gusted to 100 mph at Rockford, Ill.
Ten inches of rain fell during the weekend on Kokomo, Ind., and as many as 400 people had to be evacuated by boat, the Red Cross said.
Farther west, another group of storms battered parts of Nebraska, Iowa and southern Minnesota during the night into Tuesday. Wind gusting up to 100 mph toppled a radio station tower at Ogallala, Neb., knocking KOGA off the air.
Three weekend deaths were blamed on the weather in Indiana. Seven people drowned along Lake Michigan beaches on Friday after thunderstorms churned up waves and riptides.
Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press