South Haven residents stunned by latest flooding
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 23, 2014 8:14PM
Frank Garcia uses a squeegee to mop away water on the subflooring if his brother-in-law's home after the carpeting was ripped out. | Carrie Napoleon/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 24, 2014 2:03AM
SOUTH HAVEN — Residents grabbed rakes Saturday and headed for the two large storm culverts in the 700 block of Governor Road to try to stop floating debris from clogging the swirling drains.
While the drains were free of debris before the rain started Saturday — after flooding Friday devastated the neighborhood and left at least three of the homes uninhabitable — rain soon filled the street from curb to curb and a torrent of stormwater flushed debris toward the drains.
The rainfall Saturday added insult to injury for residents left dragging out waterlogged belongings ruined by a Friday flood that filled their streets and their homes with a mixture of rainwater and sewage.
“It was crazy standing here and watching it happen,” Teresa Torres said. “We had to basically do a rush move out.”
Torres said she and her two adult sons packed up some of their belongings in bags and began walking up the street between two of their neighbors’ homes to higher ground. She said the current in the street was so strong it kept pushing her back.
The stench of sewage filled her home even after the family, with the help of relatives and members of their church, ripped out the flood-soaked carpeting and belongings. Fans were blowing on the subflooring as they worked to squeegee out standing water throughout the single level slab home. The subflooring, drywall and insulation must be replaced.
None of the affected homeowners qualifies for flood insurance.
The Radtkes own the home in which their daughter, her husband and their four children live. The family had to be rescued by lifeboat from the home Friday by the South Haven Volunteer Fire Department.
“They called me a little after 2 Friday morning and said the water was to the doors and it was coming into the house,” Teresa Radtke said. Floodwater filled the crawl space and was coming up into the home through the vents. The toilets were backing up and pushing sewage into the flood waters.
Radtke said the South Haven Volunteer Fire Department responded with lifeboats to rescue her daughter’s family from the rising polluted flood waters.
“Kudos to the South Haven Fire Department. They were great,” she said.
Radkte said she and her husband have tried to obtain flood insurance just as the Torres family had. Since the homes are not in a flood plain, the families are ineligible. Both families also have been shot down by their regular homeowner’s insurance companies, which say they do not cover flood damage.
“Everybody is at total loss,” she said.
The residents on Governor Road have been battling flooding for decades. Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy was on site Saturday as soon as the rain began to fall to monitor the drains and document the flooding and how residents were trying to cope. He said the situation has gone on long enough and must be addressed.
“If it happened once it’s one thing. This is a recurring problem,” Clancy said.
Workers were able to clear a beaver dam that was blocking the flow of water into Duck Creek on Saturday, but the real problem, how the area drains into the two large culverts, he said, must be addressed by officials. Clancy said he will work to bring together Porter County Council members and commissioners, the drainage board and whoever else may have responsibility for the problem to find a solution.
“We need to try and figure out how we can all get together and get something accelerated out here,” Clancy said.
In the meantime, homeowners are left with the mess and an uncertain future. Clancy has declared a state of emergency for the area, but whether that will result in funding to help those affected was unclear.
Residents are trying to salvage what they can and figure out how to move on.
“I’m just going through the motions. Then I go home and cry a lot,” Radtke said.