Officials: Watch out for high water


Floodwaters from the East Fork White River swollen by recent heavy rains have left large areas submerged, damaged some roads in the county and even cost some motorists money.

The river crested at 18.05 feet at 1:30 a.m. Monday at Rockford, just north of Seymour, but its descent to below flood stage of 12 feet isn’t expected to end until 6 p.m. Friday. That’s only if no more rain falls in the area, but the National Weather Service is forecasting more rain for Wednesday morning and Thursday in Jackson County.

Since Thursday afternoon, 3.13 inches fell in the area in the central part of Jackson County, according to the Brownstown Central High School weather site. Rainfall amounts, however, varied across the county.

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Through Monday morning, 6.54 inches of rain have fallen in February in the central part of the county.

At 18 feet, major flooding is occurring in Jackson County, and more than half the floodplain is covered in water, according to the weather service. Floodwaters also are near the east edge of Medora, and the wastewater treatment plant at Seymour is isolated. Many county roads that do not cross the river are beginning to flood, and many state and county roads are impassable by water.

The weather service also reports high water affects many rural residents and surrounds most river cabins, but only a few evacuations are necessary. None had been reported as of Monday morning.

Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said he planned to tour the county to survey damage.

“Damage to homes is my first concern,” he said. “If there is, I need to speak with them to report their damage.”

As the water recedes, Davis and the Jackson County Highway Department will survey damage to county roads, culverts and other structures.

Police in Jackson County have been called to at least a dozen incidents where motorists were caught in the floodwaters since Friday morning. They also have cited motorists for driving through floodwaters.

“Citations are $150 for a first-time offense, and if they have been cited before, it goes up to $500,” Sheriff Mike Carothers said.

He said motorists need to remain aware of flooding and not try to drive through any amount that is over a roadway.

“They need to stop, turn around and not go through it,” Carothers said.

No serious injuries were reported in any of the incidents.

Police responded to an incident Monday morning at County Road 700E south of Madden Hill, where a man drove off of the roadway and into floodwaters. The motorist’s vehicle was then swept between 75 and 100 feet down toward trees.

“We brought in the Bartholomew County airboat for the rescue,” he said.

It took about 40 minutes between when the call was reported and when police were able to leave.

Two rescues occurred Sunday night in the Rockford area and involved teens. The most recent was reported at 10:10 p.m. and involved a 19-year-old who told dispatchers with the sheriff’s department that he was stranded in the 7000 block of North County Road 700E.

County Officer Rick Meyer responded and reported he and firefighters with Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department were unable to reach the man.

Conservation officers Nate Berry and Blake Everhart were called to the scene and used an airboat to get bring the man to dry ground, Meyer said. Reserve Officer Shane Collier, Indiana State Police troopers and Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel assisted at the scene.

A 17-year-old youth was rescued from his vehicle after he drove into floodwaters in the 6500 block of North County Road 760E (Lower Rockford Road) at about 7 p.m. Sunday.

Meyer said when he arrived, the youth was sitting on top of a Ford Mustang. Redding Township firefighters were able to reach his vehicle and bring him to safety.

The youth was cold and wet, Meyer said. County Reserve Officer Greg Murphy assisted at the scene along with Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel and Wayt’s Towing and Recovery.

Carothers said there are many dangers in driving through floodwaters, including risking injury and death, vehicle damage and putting first responders at risk.

“Even with airboats or whatever we’re trying to use to get someone out and save them, we’re putting the first responders’ life at risk,” he said, adding there have been incidents in the past where Jackson County first responders have nearly drowned trying to save motorists in floodwaters.

“It’s a risk for everybody just because of someone’s negligence, but there are incidents where people’s homes are surrounded by water and they’re leaving and just get caught in the water,” he said.

The floodwaters have been widespread throughout many counties across the state and forced Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to declare a disaster emergency for 16 counties in Indiana. That total is up from the initial 11 announced Saturday.

The disaster declaration means the Indiana Department of Homeland Security can expand emergency services and is a step the state is required to take to request assistance from the federal government.

“This is an important step in helping Hoosiers around our state who’ve been hurt by this flooding,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb toured counties in southern Indiana on Monday to survey damage.

Davis said he doesn’t believe Jackson County will be added to that list.

“Historically, I know what we can expect as far as public assistance and damage to our roads,” he said. “We may not meet our threshold for our county.”

The threshold for public assistance for Jackson County is around $156,000 in total damage. That would include road repair, debris removal and other costs associated with floodwaters. The federal government will help residents if there are 25 to 30 homes with major uninsured losses.

Davis said even though the county may not meet the threshold, the numbers will be totaled for the state to receive assistance from the federal government.

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