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Indiana floodwaters close roads, force residents from homes

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, April 19, 2013 - 6:09 pm

ZIONSVILLE — Strong overnight storms that dumped record amounts of rainfall in parts of Indiana flooded rivers, streams and streets across the state Friday, closing numerous roads, forcing more than 100 people from their homes and prompting officials in at least three counties to declare local emergencies.

Many officials were keeping a wary eye on local tributaries, especially the Wabash River in Tippecanoe County. The National Weather Service predicted the Wabash River in Tippecanoe County would crest Saturday afternoon at 25.5 feet. That's the highest since 1958, when it topped 26 feet.

The storms dumped up to three inches of precipitation in a large swath of central and northeast Indiana, with isolated areas reporting more, said Earl Breon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. Northwest of Indianapolis, the Boone County town of New Ross reported the highest total rainfall, 5.39 inches. The second-highest total was in Andrews, southwest of Fort Wayne, where 4.6 inches fell.

Fort Wayne and Indianapolis both set records for rainfall Thursday — 2.32 inches in Fort Wayne, breaking the old mark for that date of 0.97 inches set in 1978; 2.29 inches in Indianapolis, upending the 1887 record of 1.27 inches.

About 60 residents of the Stoney Creek Mobile Home Park near Zanesville, a few miles south of Fort Wayne, were evacuated when Eight Mile Creek overflowed its banks, Southwest Fire District Chief Don Patnoude said. About 10 to 15 residents stayed in their mobile homes, most of which were on higher ground.

Patnoude said rescue boats were used to remove residents from their homes, which were surrounded by up to 2 feet of water.

"With little kids and the elderly, it's hard for them to get out even the when the water's not that high. There's also a lot of people there who are handicapped and use scooters," he said.

In Zionsville, a picturesque Indianapolis suburb with historic buildings set amid rolling wooded hills, Police Capt. Doug Gauthier said flooding along Eagle Creek had forced the evacuation of between 25 and 30 residents from about 15 houses in a new subdivision and in a low-lying section downtown. He said motorists had been rescued from about five cars.

"This is the worst we've seen probably in 50 years," Gauthier said at an emergency operations center set up in the town hall.

Boone, Tipton and Howard counties declared local states of emergency. State police warned motorists to stay off the roads in Tipton County, especially in the area in and immediately south of Tipton — about 40 miles north of Indianapolis — because most roads are closed. Police say authorities used boats to evacuate people, and school officials in Tipton canceled the high school prom.

Red Cross volunteer Robert Wesseler said about 20 people had taken refuge at Zionsville Christian Church. Tim and Bonnie Sloan left the shelter Friday morning to survey the flooding at their home, the only wood-frame one in the downtown mobile home park where they live.

Tim Sloan, 48, said the lower part of the mobile home park was under about 4 feet of water and that police officers knocked on their door early Friday.

"I wondered, 'Who's banging on my door at three o'clock in the morning,' " he said.

Residents in Lebanon, 25 miles northwest of Indianapolis, told WTHR-TV it was the worst flooding they've seen since the 1950s, with water from Prairie Creek filling many basements.

"I have seen it about halfway up, maybe three-fourths, but I have never seen it come up to road level like this. This is amazing," said E.J. Haig as he surveyed a road that was completely underwater.

About 40 miles to the east in Elwood, officials ordered residents to boil water as a precaution after the usually shallow Duck Creek swelled into a block-wide river.

Mayor Ron Arnold told WTHR the city has spent millions of dollars dredging, clearing and improving its storm drainage system, but that wasn't enough to help with Thursday's storm.

Joe Scholl was disgusted as he looked at the water.

"I work all my life to get what we got and it just don't seem like we can hang on to it," he said.