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April 21, 2013

Waterlogged: High water closed roads, triggered sand bags, boat rescues

Flooding compared to winter 2008, summer 2003.

LOGANSPORT — The Logansport area may have fared better than its neighbors around the region, but it wasn’t all good news Friday as water levels continued to rise.

For Allen Doss, the day started out horribly. He awoke at 6:30 a.m. to find 3 feet of water surrounding his Cass County home.

“We didn’t know until we woke up and the water was already surrounding our house,” Doss said.

Along with his wife, Tiffany, and young daughters, he was able to get out of the house safely with the help of the Logansport Fire Department and Cass County Fire District No. 1.

The departments were among several that worked Friday to prevent and assess damage caused by the high water levels.

By Friday afternoon, the Wabash River in Logansport was pushing its flood stage of 15 feet, coming up just shy at 14.43 feet, according to Alvin Beckman, director of Cass County Emergency Management Agency. He said he expected the river to crest at 16.1 or 16.5 feet around 5 a.m. Saturday, but he didn’t expect the water level to recede until 5 a.m. today.

Observed water level at the Wabash River gauge near Cicott Street peaked at 14.91 feet at 5:30 p.m. Friday and began receding, according to the National Weather Service. It had fallen to 13.83 feet by 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor said some motorists did not heed warnings against driving into standing water.

“We’ve had several vehicles drive into high water and become disabled,” Pryor said, estimating the number at about 10.

The Cass County Highway Department reported a few disabled vehicles sitting in high water, said Jeff Smith, the department’s superintendent.

“The main thing is there were no reports of serious injuries,” Pryor said. “Southeastern School Corp. helped us out today by closing their school.”

For emergency responders working Friday, safety was the No. 1 priority.

“We’re trying to protect as many people as we can,” Beckman said. “We’ve asked people to voluntarily evacuate their homes in problem areas along the Wabash River, and most of them had already left.”

And for those displaced, a shelter opened Friday at American Red Cross, 1200 W. Market St.

Road closures

Heavy rainfall forced several roads in Cass County to be closed, including Ind. 218 east of Camden and Ind. 18 between Ind. 29 and U.S. 35, said Matt Deitchley, media relations director at Indiana Department of Transportation LaPorte District.

Jeff Smith, superintendent of the Cass County Highway Department, reported even more road closures Friday, including 1000 South at 300, 400 and 500 East, as well as 800 East at 1225 South and 1175 South.

“All personnel were out at 7 a.m. Friday dealing with the high water,” Smith said. “They stayed out throughout the day, posting a dozen barricades and about 50 easel signs warning against high water.”

The city’s streets department was also out working to keep the water at bay Friday. Dan Williams, superintendent, said they had a few water drains back up and were working to keep them open.

In one case, Williams said, water forced off a manhole cover. Fortunately, he said, no one was driving in the area at that time, or it would have caused a vehicle to become stuck.

Williams said they had a few places on the south side of town where water could have gotten to homes, but they had a large supply of sandbags ready.

“People can call us,” Williams said Friday. “We have about 100 bags to go and would help sandbag where needed.”

Sandbags were used Friday morning in Twelve Mile, along Twelve Mile Creek, and Galveston, along Lincoln Pike. Beckman said additional sandbag locations were added in Galveston, Onward and Walton in case they were needed.

Beckman said Cass County received 5.08 inches from Tuesday to Friday. Of that amount, 4.13 inches fell early Friday morning.

“When the ground is saturated the way it is right now, it’s a major problem because there is nowhere for additional water to go,” Beckman said. “I want to urge people to know our local problem areas, like Pipe Creek Falls and Deer Creek.”

Smith said it’s been four years since he has seen water like this.

“We had some winter-time flooding in 2008 and another spell in spring of 2009,” Smith said. “The flooding in July 2003 was really a benchmark a lot of guys are comparing it to. It’s not as bad as that, but it’s bad enough.”

Amie Sites is community news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at amie.sites@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5150.

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