While Northeastern Indiana and Northwestern Ohio assessed the damage from 5 inches of rain in five days, a little group of people stood on the 137-foot-high Salamonie dam this morning and watched a modern miracle.
Water was rushing down the rampaging little Salamonie River at the rate of more than 4,000 feet a second. But it was held there, behind a 2-mile-long dam and 16-ton flood gates.
Below the dam it was but a trickle, no larger than during last summer's drought.
Many shook their heads. They had been victims of floods many times in the community where the Salamonie joins the Wabash and cuts a swath south, down through the mid-section of Indiana.
“Water is no problem in Wabash,” one said, almost incredulously. An 1,800-acre pool was slowly filling with water, but was far short, less than half of its capacity.
The gauge on the Wabash stood at 18.3 feet. The rise was there inches an hour. That gauge would have read 4 feet higher had the dam not been there.
Those viewing the man-made marvel began to speculate. That much more water added at Peru, Logansport and Lafayette, where the reading was 19.7 feet, “It is quite a sight,” admitted C. J. Walter, resident for the Army Corps of Engineers, who directed closing the gates Wednesday night. “The saving to this and communities on down the river is inestimable.”
Walter activated the Mississinewa dams, of similar size and structure, a few miles further down the Wabash at 8:25 a.m. today. It is nearer Peru and will hold back the flow there, (and) keep a similar wall of water out of Terre Haute and points south.
The Mississinewa (dam) is not completed, Walter explained, “but it is usable. We had contractors pull their equipment out of the bottoms last night, preparatory to closing the gates.”
The rains were lighter in Southern Indiana but, like all communities along rivers, they get much of their floods from upstream. And for them, it still doesn't look good.
The rainfall at Logansport, where the Eel (River) enters the Wabash, totals 6 inches since Sunday. There was 5.2 inches at Rochester, 4.8 at Wabash, and so on down the line.
The Weather Bureau in Indianapolis said flooding in most areas will be “much higher than expected.” And, except for the floodgates on the Salamonie, it would have been much higher than that, they could have added.
Many creeks were still out of their banks throughout this section. Huntington, where the third of the Wabash Flood Control projects is being built, reported much of the lowlands flooded but damage (was) not of the severest nature.
Farm experts estimated losses to corn still in fields at half a million dollars. Stalks will soften, blow down and the corn will mold or rot if it doesn't turn cold and freeze up soon, they said.
But with proper control, in the future, water in the lowlands will have a chance to run off more quickly (and) cause less damage. The saving of such control projects was readily cited in areas other than croplands. Three factories were operating in Wabash, and sure they would not be in production today without the Salamonie dam.
In Huntington and other counties, motorists were urged to stay off roads in lowlands. The extent of their damage has not been fully estimated. Caution was urged in driving through water. There may be washouts from the flash floods Wednesday night, authorities said.
Highway 24 between Defiance and Napoleon, Ohio, along the Maumee River was still closed. Fourteen families were urged today to move out at Defiance, but they elected to stay, hoping the river there is near a crest at 13.4 feet, about two feet above flood stage.
They had a cloudburst in the Defiance area last night. The St. Joseph River (at) Montpelier, Ohio, was two feet over flood stage, but causing little damage.
Crests in Southern Indiana, however, are expected to be slower. The Wabash is expected to crest at Terre Haute Monday at 22 feet, 8 feet above flood stage and reach 6 feet above flood stage at Vincennes.
The forecast was not the most desirable. Continued showers were expected over the weekend. If they continue, railroads may have trouble.
The engine and two boxcars of a Monon train were derailed Thursday night at Lafayette. High water had weakened the roadbed. The boxcars went down a 40-foot embankment. No one was hurt.
The photosOnly minimal original caption information was provided with the Salamonie Reservoir photos from our archives.
Monument City update
Receding water levels at Salamonie Reservoir recently revealed the site of the former town of Monument City, which normally is submerged. Indiana Department of Natural Resources staff offered supervised tours of that location on two recent weekends, but there are no plans to offer additional tours, said Marvin McNew, director of the DNR's Upper Wabash Interpretive Services.
Instead, signs are being prepared for placement at the Monument City site warning visitors it is illegal to take anything from that location, McNew said. Once the signs are installed — probably within the next month — Salamonie Reservoir visitors will be allowed to walk back to the Monument City site, he said.
DNR staff will patrol the area to make sure people obey the law, McNew said.
People interested in Monument City and other towns submerged by the reservoir can learn more about the towns and construction of the Salamonie Dam at the Lost Bridge West Interpretive Center in the center of the reservoir property, McNew said. The interpretive center is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
McNew also noted:
•The Monument City site normally stands above water in late fall, winter and sometimes early spring. That takes place because a substantial amount of water is released from the reservoir each fall to make room for run-off from winter snow and spring rains.
•Some residents of towns submerged by Salamonie Reservoir have begun donating town memorabilia to the interpretive center. The items will be archived and can be used in the future to help tell the story of the creation of the reservoir.