Putnam County could see flooding this week

Monday, February 19, 2007
Slick road conditions resulted in an accident Saturday morning on eastbound Interstate 70. Cloverdale Township volunteer firefighters responded to the first incident (top) at 7:41 a.m. near the 49-mile marker when a 2003 Mitsubishi Montero Sport flipped several times before coming to a stop in the median. The vehicle just a few feet from going into a ravine and creek. Driver Rachel Perron, St. Louis, told authorities she lost control on the ice- covered bridge. She was taken to Putnam County Hospital via Operation Life ambulance for treatment of shoulder pain and several small cuts.

Near record snowfall last week. Potential flooding this week.

The National Weather Service in Indianapolis issued a special statement Monday morning, warning of the possibility for significant flooding by the end of the week.

A strong low pressure system, similar to the one that brought nearly a foot of snow to Putnam County last week, is projected to spin its way into the state this weekend. The difference between last week's storm and this week's storm, weather forecasters say, will be the temperature.

High temperatures are expected to climb into the 40s by Wednesday and the 50s by Saturday, causing for a major meltdown of snow. Couple that with the potential for more than 1 inch of additional rainfall this week and it's easy to see that the area is in for a real soaking.

"It's definitely going to flood," Putnam County EMA Director Kim Hyten told the BannerGraphic Monday. "Everyone who has lived in the county a long time knows the areas that are prone to flooding and they just need to be cautious."

Some of the favorite areas for flooding in Putnam County include Big Walnut Creek, Mill Creek and the area around Cataract Lake in the southern part of the county.

Hyten said he spoke with an official at the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday and was told Cataract is currently being drained at the rate of about one foot per day.

As of Monday morning, officials said, the water level in the lake stood at 657.45 feet above sea level.

Hyten said he was told that lake officials would stop draining the lake if the area receives heavy rain this week. An inch or more of rain this week -- combined with snowmelt -- could mean the lake would rise by up to 5 feet per day, Hyten said.

Consequently, this could mean trouble for Ind. 42 which typically becomes impassible from the overflow of Cataract Lake. Hyten said the bridge over Doe Creek, on Ind. 42, stands at 676.6 feet above sea level, or about 20 feet higher than the current lake level.

Someone who knows all too well about the flooding in southern Putnam County is Cloverdale Township Fire Chief Kerry Shepherd.

Last month the fire department responded to three separate instances of cars getting caught in floodwaters in the lake area.

In one instance, a young man unknowingly drove his car into a flooded area, causing the vehicle to turn upside down and become submerged with the driver still inside. Fortunately, rescue personnel responding to the scene were able to retrieve the driver in time to save his life.

With the area prone to more flooding this week, Shepherd is issuing a warning for drivers to obey law enforcement by staying out of flooded areas.

"People need to stay out of flooded areas," Shepherd said.

Dealing with flooded roads is bad enough, but Hyten says the county has struggled to keep up with thieves who seem bent on removing the barricades that officials use to close the roads.

"Apparently these things are valuable to people to put in their yards or in their houses," Hyten said of the stolen barricades.

In an attempt to prevent people from removing the barricades, the county commissioners recently approved the installation of metal gates on at least two of the roads in the southern part of the county. Last month, gates were approved for CR 1225 South and CR 25 East.

Hyten said he thought the gates would probably have to be locked sometime this week, in anticipation of the flooding.

"Folks just need to consider this the same as a big snow event by stocking up and staying where they're at," Hyten said. "In this county, a lot of areas are prone to flooding, but we're lucky that we don't have a lot of structures (in those areas)."

The weather bureau is advising homeowners who live in low-lying areas to be vigilant in monitoring the situation throughout the week and prepare for potential problems.

Hyten said the EMA office will be monitoring the potential for problems throughout the week by staying in contact with the National Weather Service. He said there are systems in place to monitor the level of Big Walnut Creek in three locations in Putnam County -- near Barnard, south of Bainbridge and near Reelsville.

Hyten said he will contact the weather bureau later this week to check on the level of the creek in those areas.

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