Mother Nature delivered another blow to Daviess County over the weekend with a torrential rain storm. The storm dropped up to 6 inches of rain, flooding roadways and creating havoc.
“The big problem with this rain was that the ground was already saturated from the melting snow earlier in the week,” said Paul Goss with the Daviess County Emergency Agency. “The cold weather during the week had also raised the frost line so the water didn’t go as deeply in the ground as normal.”
The worst flooding was at East Side Park in Washington. The park had to be closed and water crept up to homes at nearby Trail Breeze Kourt. No homes were damaged but water did flow underneath trailers.
“In the 30 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen the water this high,” Washington Mayor Joe Wellman said.
The runoff from the rain quickly filled small creeks, streams and ditches, covering roadways and creating some dangerous situations. “We had reports of cars swept off the road in three places,” said Daviess County Highway Superintendent Phil Cornelius.
“One of those resulted in police having to go out and rescue some people,” added Goss.
The Daviess County Sheriff’s Department had to rescue a vehicle on CR 1000N. Saturday, city police had to close portions of Main, Walnut and East Van Trees streets that were flooded, along with Lakeview and Glenwood drives and Bedford Road. On Monday, Memorial Avenue was still closed as a clogged spillway was opened and waters receded.
In Pike County, Conservation Officers rescued a man they found hanging onto a bridge abutment after flood waters knocked him off of his four-wheeler. Michael Christmas, 30, of Velpen was found about 100 yards into the flood waters. He told officers he was returning from work in Otwell when the water separated him from the vehicle. Authorities say Christmas had been in the water for about three hours Saturday night before he was rescued. He was taken to Jasper Memorial Hospital and treated for hypothermia, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The rain washed out a large culvert on CR 350E. The washout caused the road, which is used to haul coal, to collapse. “That’s a big culvert,” said Phil Cornelius. “We just happened to have one the same size on hand and were able to get out there and replace it.”
CR 350E re-opened on Monday, but several other roads were still facing flooding issues. Both CR 1000N and Old Vincennes Road were closed and will be for several days. In addition SR 358 and SR 257 were closed by flooding along the East and West forks of the White River.
County officials say the fast moving water associated with the storm may have done more damage. “We may have some washouts along some of the roads and ditches,” said Cornelius. “We have 800 miles of road and haven’t been able to put eyes on everything. We’d like for the public to let us know of any areas where they see problems.”
The rain in Washington created its own set of problems. “We normally have flooding issues on the west side of town, but this time it hit the east side really hard,” Wellman said. “We have cleaned out the overflow and hopefully we will be able to re-open everything soon.”
Street and sewer crews in the city were also busy as the rain backed up and caused problems for residents. “We had a lot of flooded basements around town,” said Wellman. “Our sewer lines were open and flowing, but they can only handle so much water. We had a lot of water running down through the north end of town.”
The mayor believes the flooding would have been much worse if not for the retention ponds the city built north of town. “We were watching those very carefully and they got very high,” said Wellman. “Without those, we would have had a lot more flooding through town.”
The water is now making its way into the rivers in the area. “We are expecting the West Fork of the White River to crest at 22.8 feet early Thursday morning,” said Goss. “That would also put it right at the edge of forcing the closure of SR 58.”
That would also raise the river close to the same level it was the last time the Bennington Levee failed. The levee has since been repaired but officials are keeping a close eye on it.
The high water already caused a levee to fail in Gibson County. Authorities there report the levee broke Saturday night and closed part of SR 64 near Oakland City. The break caused officers to respond to 13 water rescues involving motor vehicles.
Officials say the high water may be causing additional problems as the temperatures fall. “We are looking at some single digit temperatures, and wherever there is still water on the road we expect that to turn into ice,” said Cornelius.