Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 21, 2013

Heavy rainfall predicted; officials urge caution

By Rob Cox Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG — Heavy rain was forecasted to begin falling in Decatur County and continue falling through Sunday; meteorologists at the National Weather Service are calling for five inches to hit the area by the end of the weekend.

On Thursday, Decatur County Emergency Management Director Rob Duckworth told the Daily News the EMA is well prepared for such conditions, but is taking additional measures to be ready.

Duckworth and other EMA personnel were in Indianapolis Friday picking up 5,000 sandbags from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Those 5,000 will be added to another 5,000 bags already in the EMA’s possession. Of those 10,000 sandbags, only 200 currently have sand in them, but, according to Duckworth, the EMA is making arrangements to fill them.

When filled, Duckworth explained, the bags “are designed to prevent damage to critical infrastructure.”

As to where the filled bags might be placed, Duckworth explained there’s no definite blueprint as to where to put them. Instead, the barricades will be strategically placed based on need.

“We’ll have to look at requests from local government, of course,” the director added.

The only area where the sandbags will automatically be placed is the Decatur County Courthouse, where the sally port exit-and-entrance for prisoners tends to flood.

In the county, Duckworth anticipates that County Road 150 West off 421 (also known as Moscow Road), might experience some flooding and that the flood-prone intersection of Highway 46 (Main Street) and Lincoln may well prove problematic. Beyond these, however, Duckworth doesn’t anticipate any major issues with flooding, but that’s the reason for the sandbags: For any unforeseen standing-water problems that might pop-up from significant amounts of rainfall.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough bags available for individual home or business owners to borrow in the event of localized flooding.

Duckworth called on Decatur Countians to exercise caution and “common sense” when dealing with the coming rains.

“Folks will certainly be out driving,” he said. “The most important piece of advice I can offer is to drive slowly. Car headlights can reflect off still-standing water and fool the driver. He or she might not realize they’re approaching standing water and end up driving into it.”

“Never cross running water,” the director continued. “You just can’t know how deep it is or how fast it might be moving.”

In the event a driver becomes stranded in standing water, Duckworth advised the driver and vehicle occupants to remain inside the vehicle. “If you feel the car moving at all,” he added, “that’s definitely a sign you shouldn’t get out, but call 911 and wait for emergency responders to find you. We’ll spot your vehicle much more easily and quickly than we will a person on foot – especially if you get carried downstream.”

Letts Volunteer Fire Department Chief Matt Morrow echoed Duckworth, adding that drivers should alter their routes instead of attempting to cross standing water.

“Eighteen inches of water can move a vehicle,” he said. “And if it can move a car, it can sweep you away very quickly, so change your route and stay out of the water.”

The Letts Fire Department is Decatur County’s only department with a water rescue team, meaning Morrow and his specially-trained team will be called into service should an actual water rescue become necessary. “Moving water is fast and relentless,” he said. “And the speed of the current on top of the water should never be considered an indication of the current speed beneath the surface. The flow can be slower on top and much faster underneath – or vice versa. There are so many dynamics that come into play with water, there’s just no way to know for sure.”

Morrow, too, called on motorists to exercise common sense and sound judgment in navigating rainy roads and streets. He stressed that motorists must obey all signs regarding road closures, meaning that if a road is blocked off by a county or city sign, drivers must never enter the closed street.

Morrow expects low lying areas in Decatur County to potentially prove problematic in the coming rains, as well as known flood plains within Greensburg and Decatur County. The ice and snow still on the ground from last week’s snowfall, he added, combined with autumn leaves, could also combine with the rainfall to make city streets treacherous.

Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert expressed confidence that five inches of rain spread over three days, while potentially problematic, certainly wouldn’t prove devastating.

The mayor pointed specifically to the city’s recently-completed Gas Creek Project as one primary reason why this weekend’s heavy rainfall won’t greatly disrupt the city.

That project recently won an Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies for engineering firm GRW Engineers. Through the project, engineers built a five-acre retention pond just south of the Decatur County Community School Administration building, a 15-acre retention pond around GECOM and expanded the culvert near the existing railroad bridge on Highway 421 close to Five-Points Tire.

“The Gas Creek Project lowered the flood level a foot and a half or so,” Herbert said. “Plus, the retention ponds do a good job holding water back a little longer. Now we just need INDOT to hold up their end of the bargain by fixing the deficient culvert at Main Street and Lincoln. That will lower the flood plain another foot and a half or so.”

The mayor agreed with Duckworth and Morrow, though, advising drivers to use caution and common sense and to obey all signs.

For more on this weekend’s weather, visit the National Weather Service online at http://1.usa.gov/1erEiPo.

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com