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By VINCE LUECKE and KEVIN KOELLING, The Perry County News
Swollen by more than a week of storms that dumped 8 or more inches of rain across the county and even more upstream, the Ohio River reached seldom-seen heights this week, threatening homes in several areas of the county in the most significant flood in 14 years.
The county remained in full-flood response mode as The News went to press late Wednesday afternoon, with the county under a state of emergency. National Guard troops arrived in Tell City Wednesday morning to fill sandbags that will be used in trying to keep rising waters away from homes.
As of press time, there had been no injuries reported from the flooding. A possible crest of the river at 49.5 feet could come Friday, just under the 1997 crest of 50.4 feet.
Perry County’s commissioners declared a state of emergency at approximately 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, calling on county residents to be alert for rapidly rising flood waters and to refrain from travel on water-covered roads. Their proclamation will remain in effect until noon May 2.
Signed by Commissioners Bill Amos and Jody Fortwendel and county Emergency Management Director Steve Hauser, the proclamation also requires residents to “comply with necessary emergency measures, to cooperate with public officials and disaster-services forces in executing emergency operations plans and to obey and comply with the lawful directions of properly identified officers.”
The flooding means county officials are “unable to provide the public with adequate advance warning of road closures and general maintenance repairs,” the proclamation also notes.
Basements in the 1800 block of 13th Street in Tell City were in danger of flooding, Hauser said Tuesday afternoon, adding “we are beefing up sandbagging in areas of Derby and at least one home in Leopold will be affected.” The efforts in Derby had been under way for a couple of days, he said.
He predicted that Indiana 66 would have to be closed at Troy by week’s end but as of Wednesday afternoon, the highway remained open. The declaration of an emergency allows the county to request state resources like Branchville prisoners, Hauser explained, adding that he’d just requested National Guard support. The soldiers were to help with sandbagging at Fifth and Schiller streets in Tell City and the transporting of bags to other areas, he said.
“We have not exhausted our supply of bags, but I have requested 20,000 more,” Hauser said. Mulzer Crushed Stone Co. has donated sand for people to pick up, he added, and the county would likely pay for some of it. Emergency funds are set aside for such purposes, he added.
The emergency declaration would also help if reimbursements are to be requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hauser said.
In addition to rising flood waters, some flash flooding has caught people off guard.
“We’ve had a couple of call-outs,” Hauser said, “one in the Dexter area last weekend and another a couple of hours ago.” No injuries resulted, he said, explaining that saturated ground and still-rising water combine to make further flash flooding a danger people should be alert for.
Sandbagging Under Way in Derby
Derby’s more than century-old love-hate relationship with the Ohio River continued anew this week as residents and volunteers worked to protect structures in the path of possible high water.
A line of white sandbags surrounded Danny Peter’s home in the heart of the community. Nearby, equipment was being removed from the Derby Tavern.
A few mobile homes in Derby were pulled from their foundations over the weekend and moved to higher ground.
Hauser said sandbagging was also initiated around some homes in the Rocky Point Area.
In Tell City, there were no problems with the city’s floodwall and levee system. Water leaking under the wall in 1997 caused a major concern.
“Right now our concerns are with the residents in low-lying areas,” Mayor Barbara Ewing said Wednesday morning. Her office was coordinating efforts with the county and department heads.
Police officers received a report of people walking along the earthen levee in Tell City to view the river. Police are asking the public not to venture onto the berm.
Tell City continues to staff two pumping stations that push stormwater into the river, a must when the river nears flood stage.
Floodwall “gates are in and sealed and holding the river back,” Cannelton Mayor Smokey Graves said when asked late Wednesday morning how that city was affected by the flooding. Other than water rising over Old Indiana 237, things were quiet there.
The heavy rains did provide a good test of repairs made recently to the roof of the city’s Old Gym, Graves said. As The News reported March 28, Bernie Bower of Bower Construction in Tell City offered to make the repairs using existing materials where possible for $8,738.60.
That cost “came in as projected and everything is high and dry,” the mayor said. He added that the repairs will pave the way to seek federal grant funding to improve energy efficiency in the facility, which would save taxpayers’ money.
Anyone who faces an immediate emergency related to the current flooding should call 911 to reach a dispatcher at the Tell City Police Department.
Non-emergency calls seeking information can be placed to the county emergency management agency office at 547-4426.