Eyes on Little Cal as rain falls
Post-Tribune staff report April 18, 2013 9:52AM
Rainfall amounts as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday:
Gary: 0.62 inches
Schererville: 1.28 inches
Lowell: 0.58 inches
Hebron: 0.74 inches
Source: National Weather Service
Updated: April 19, 2013 1:42PM
Improvements since the major flood of 2008 appear to be keeping flooding under control in Northwest Indiana despite several inches of rain in recent days.
While the Little Calumet River between Hammond and Munster was high, no flooding had occurred by Thursday night. Still, officials were keeping a close eye on the flood-prone river, with sandbags and trucks at the ready.
Dan Repay, executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, was visiting sites along the river Thursday morning. He was not immediately available to comment on the status of the water level.
However, residents in south Hammond and north Munster who suffered severe flooding damage just a few years ago were also closely watching the rising levels. Many reported 1 to 2 inches of water in basements.
Early Thursday, Munster police closed the Northcote Avenue and Columbia Avenue bridges because of standing water.
Just before 10 a.m., the Indiana Department of Transportation closed a portion of Cline Avenue from Riley Road to Calumet Avenue due to high water.
Matt Deitchley, director of communications for INDOT’s LaPorte District, said the agency is monitoring some areas of high water and is placing road signs to warn motorists.
“With all this rain, there is the potential any of our state roads could have issues with high water. If you see high water, don’t drive through it,” Deitchley said.
In Merrillville, Matt Lake, executive director of Stormwater Utility, said he and other town employees were outside Thursday monitoring potential flood areas, pulling debris from drainage sources and taking pictures of any problems that need to be addressed.
Lake said Turkey Creek and Deep River, both of which drain water out of Merrillville, are full and the town is now relying on its detention system, which he said is working.
Also working are the two newly installed ponds off Taft Street. One large pond was created at the northeast corner of approximately 69th Avenue and Taft Street, across from Calumet Park Cemetery, and another is on the south end of 73rd Avenue.
“The ponds are pretty full and if they weren’t there, there would be water on Taft Street right now,” Lake said.
Lake said the town has been receiving phone calls from residents, ranging from water in their yards to septic backups in their basements.
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said workers began at 2 a.m. Thursday monitoring the county’s regulated drains and so far there have been no flooding problems.
“So far so good. A lot of the places we’ve done work on in the past couple years aren’t flooding,” Van Til said.
Water is high in the county’s ditches and detention ponds. Ditches are full or nearly full in the north Calumet watershed. South Lake County is faring a little better with less rainfall reported there.
Van Til said the work the county has done in cooperation with the town of Merrillville on the Kaiser Ditch has so far proven to be successful. The town added two detention ponds near 73rd Avenue and Indiana 55 that are full but are preventing the flooding of Taft Street.
“If those had not been built, there could already have been flooding in homes, and the street would have been flooded,” he said.
Workers have identified some erosion issues along the Hart Street Ditch in Dyer. Plum Creek moves rapidly through the high-banked creek and in some spots the erosion is visible.
“Things are worse than they were 24 hours ago,” he said.
Water hasn’t crested yet
Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor said County Line Road was the only road blocked off in the city as of Thursday morning, although there also are some partial lane blockages.
Still, he said the city is not out of danger yet and has been meeting with staff in the event flooding should occur.
“I understand the worst might still be before us. We usually get the brunt of the water six to 12 hours after the heavy rains,” Snedecor said.
He said communities to the west were hit harder and he always worries about the cresting effect on Lake George, which takes in water from several communities.
He said the water levels are up on both Lake George and Deep River, but “they are no where close to 2008.”
Snedecor said the removal of trees to clear waterways has helped reduce flooding.
Snedecor said the city has received few calls from residents concerning water problems.
In Gary, 25th Avenue was closed between Burr and Colfax streets in Black Oak because of high water, police spokeswoman Cpl. Gabrielle King said.
A flood fighting drill scheduled for Friday in Gary has been canceled. The drill was to be held Friday morning near Indiana University Northwest. The Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission and the city of Gary were set to participate.
Post-Tribune staff writers Lori Caldwell and Christin Nance Lazerus and correspondents Karen Caffarini and Carrie Napoleon contributed to this story, as did The Associated Press.