By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. —
First came the rain. Then floodwaters.
Now, as water that was waist deep in some areas Friday morning begins to recede, damage assessments and recovery will follow.
A spring storm dumped four to six inches of rain on northern Madison County in less than 36 hours Thursday and Friday, according to the Madison County Emergency Management Agency.
With the ground already saturated from a week of off-and-on storms, normal drainage channels simply failed under the torrential onslaught.
The result was that water settled in a nearly three- square-mile area of downtown Elwood — mostly in the northeast quadrant — forcing authorities to evacuate that area of the city, said Mayor Ron Arnold.
Water was slowly receding Friday evening, but it might be three or four days before life returns to a semblance of normal, Arnold said.
“This is nearly historic proportions for us,” he added. “We have not had flooding like this since 1989.”
No one was injured during the storm, Arnold said, but one woman stranded in floodwaters had to be rescued from her car.
City officials are just beginning to asses the damage, Arnold said.
Arnold said one police cruiser was flooded in the deluge and is a total loss. In addition, water flooded Callaway Park, its little league and softball fields, and Birch Bayh Senior Center.
He was particularly concerned about the Bayh Center because it was renovated recently at a cost of $50,000. The city was planning to hold a rededication next week, but that will be delayed until officials have are able to get inside the building.
Events began unfolding rapidly early Friday morning.
“We started to see water crossing two roads about 2 a.m.,” Arnold said. “Within two hours we knew we had a crisis,” Arnold said.
He declared a state of emergency, and police and firefighters started evacuating area residents with boats provided by the Indiana State Police, Town of Pendleton and Indiana Conservation officers.
An emergency shelter was opened at Cornerstone Assembly of God, and a boil water order was issued as a precaution.
Michael Anderson, the pastor of the church, said most area evacuees were able to find shelter with friends and family.
He said the church provided food to about 120 people, including emergency workers throughout the day.
“We had a lot of people come in and talk about the damage and flooded basements,” Anderson said.
Arnold said he would seek state and federal assistance for flood damage, and announced that the Elwood Street Department at 1130 South J Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday as a location where city residents can dispose of flood damaged items.
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