Dennis Dillon, part of a Vigo County Community Service crew, heaves a sandbag onto a truck that will take a load two blocks through flooded Dresser Ind. to try to keep floodwaters from the Dresser Church. The wark was being dome Monday April 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Tribune-Star, Jim Avelis)
Updated: April 23, 2013 10:19PM
People in western Indiana battled to keep the Wabash River from flooding their homes Monday, while people in northern Indiana started to clean up.
Residents of Dresser, a small town across the Wabash River from Terre Haute tried to shore up a levee Monday and repair a failed dike.
Tim Hedden, a Dresser resident whose home was one of about two dozen in danger, estimated that 50 to 60 people sandbagged Monday to try to keep the water out.
“It would be going better if we got more help,” Hedden said.
The worst flooding Monday was limited to a few flood-prone places and authorities said while water was seeping into some homes, they didn’t expect any widespread damage.
In Dresser, the river was flowing over the levee in two places and a dike on the southern edge of town also failed, said J.D. Kesler, deputy director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency.
“We feel bad we couldn’t catch it and keep it out of the homes by reinforcing that dike area. But these are strong folks, they’ve lived there all their lives and they just battle their way through it,” he said. “When the water recedes and the sandbags are put away, they’ll clean up their homes and go back to living,” he said.
West of Prairieton, about 10 miles southwest of Terre Haute, a different levee failed along the Wabash River, inundating farmland, Kesler said. That levee failed about 3 a.m. Monday, leaving another 20 to 25 homes on a sort of temporary island that was still accessible by vehicle as of Monday afternoon — but the water was rising.
Jason Inhofer, 46, who lives in one of those homes, said by telephone that such flooding occurs regularly.
“It’s more of an inconvenience. There’s really no houses that get affected,” he said. “Everybody knows it’s coming. It’s not a shocker. Everybody who lives here knows exactly what to expect. It’s not like you see on the news with water rushing through it.”
Residents know to stock up on supplies, to move vehicles to higher land and to expect to be able to get to and from their homes only by boat for several days, Inhofer said.
“We keep our fingers crossed that we don’t lose the electric,” he said. “It can be traumatic if you make it traumatic.”
Al Shipe, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis described the flooding along the Wabash River around Terre Haute and White River in Greene County as near major.
He said the flooding near Terre Haute was comparable to flooding to June 2008, which state officials called one of the worst agriculture disasters in Indiana history — more than $800 million in lost revenue. But Shipe said the difference this year is that most farmers haven’t done much planting.
“The farmers are telling me they’d rather have a big flood in April than in June because they’re not that far into the planting season yet,” he said.
Near Lafayette, flooding along the Wabash was the worst since 1958, Shipe said, but the waters were receding.
Shipe said more flooding is expected further downstream. The weather service issued a flood warning along the Wabash at New Harmony, saying moderate flooding was expected by late Monday.
Marc Dahmer, an NWS meteorologist in Indianapolis, said thunderstorms are forecast to move back into Indiana on Tuesday and continue through early Wednesday, bringing a half-inch to an inch of rain.
Shipe said whether the rainfall makes things worse depends on how much falls where.
“It may either heighten the crests a little bit or prolong the flooding. It depends on the amounts,” he said. “From what we’re seeing, it shouldn’t make it drastically worse.”
Flooding in Greene County, about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis, kept some roads closed Monday, but wasn’t endangering any homes, said Roger Axe, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.
“What we’ve got are roads and agriculture fields flooded, things of this nature,” he said.
North of Indianapolis, residents along central Indiana’s Wildcat Creek were cleaning up as floodwaters receded.
Leroy Colter told the Kokomo Tribune it was the worst flooding he’s seen in the 49 years he and his wife have lived there. The Colters and eight of their children and grandchildren moved furniture, appliances and valuables outside Sunday to try to dry them. They weren’t sure yet how much they’d be able to keep.
“It could be worse,” Colter said. “We’ve got a place to sleep.”
Associated Press writer Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.