LAFAYETTE — A mile-long ice jam that's holding back runoff from overnight thunderstorms caused a central Indiana creek to overflow its banks Friday, flooding at least eight homes and prompting numerous evacuations.
Tippecanoe County Sheriff Tracy Brown said the ice jam along Wildcat Creek near the spot where that stream flows into the Wabash River has sent water coursing through a neighborhood a couple of miles north of Lafayette.
"It's huge slabs of ice; it's smaller slabs; and it's a lot of trees and tree limbs that are the debris caught up in that, and it's restricted the water's flow," he said. "The creek is out of its banks and has found another route to the Wabash River, and it's doing that through this neighborhood."
Brown said the water rose quickly early Friday, flooding eight homes as well as farm fields on the opposite side of the creek when the ice jam formed and grew several feet tall.
About 20 people had been evacuated, WLFI-TV reported, and state conservation officers used an airboat to help some people reach dry ground. No injuries were reported.
Brown said the ice jam is so high that it's just beneath the bottom of a bridge that crosses State Road 25.
David Johnson told the Journal & Courier that the flooding started about 1 a.m. and is the worst he's seen in the 30 years he's lived in his home.
"The neighbor called screaming, and by the time I got to the door to look out, the water was already surrounding the house," he said. "The vehicles were under water."
The flooding caught the residents off guard, said Debra Philpot, who was among those rescued by boat from their homes.
"When we looked outside, it was already too late. We couldn't salvage anything," she told the Journal & Courier. "I'm praying it goes down."
The sheriff said it was possible more homes would be flooded later.
"We are completely at the will of Mother Nature with this," Brown said.