TERRE HAUTE —
By Wednesday morning, water was almost too deep for a four-wheel drive pickup truck to traverse Hale Place, northwest of Prairie Creek, and reach the one-story home of Stacy Smith.
Despite that, Vigo County Highway Department vehicles brought in loads of pre-filled sandbags. The bags were filled at the Terre Haute Penitentiary and workers from a camp at the Federal Correctional Center, a minimum security center, stacked the bags to encircle the home.
“I am really thankful to everyone for the help. The federal [inmates] helped a lot. A lot of my family and close friends have really worked hard,” said Smith, 29. “I am really grateful.
“The water has never been this high. I never dreamed it would ever be this high,” Smith said of the home she shares with her 5-year-old son. “The highest it normally comes is about halfway up the pasture,” she said as she looked across the 3 1⁄2 acres of her property.
Family friends Bob and Brenda Caton on Tuesday organized help, which included at least 40 friends and family members, to begin putting up sandbags around the home’s backyard.
County commissioners Mike Ciolli and Brad Anderson also visited the home.
“It was an emergency situation and the warden at the federal prison agreed to allow us to use inmates, who have been very beneficial to the county,” Ciolli said. “We started using them, along with county community corrections workers, on Monday. They worked south and also at Dresser,” he said.
More than 100 feet of Hale Place looked more like a flowing river than an asphalt county road by Wednesday.
“We are just trying to help. It’s really a no-man’s land as far as responsibility, but we are trying to help with the highway department,” Anderson said at the Smith home, which is adjacent to the county road.
“The blue hole area is also under water and we have lost several roads, such as Robertson [Place] and Arbuckle [Place], which look like rapids,” Anderson said.
As of 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, the county had closed sections of 36 county roads, said Dan Bennett, assistant highway superintendent. Of that, eight roads “along the river bottoms are 100 percent covered,” Bennett said.
Bennett estimated the county highway department had delivered between 1,200 and 1,500 tons of sand for use in sandbags throughout the county.
Parts of the Wabash Valley received 2 inches of rain from Tuesday evening through Wednesday, adding to the wet conditions. However, dry conditions are forecast through Saturday, which has a 20 percent chance for rain, the National Weather Service reports.
“I think we are on the downhill said of this, we hope,” said J.D. Kesler, deputy director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency. Kesler reported the Wabash River had dropped more than a foot by Wednesday afternoon and was expected to drop throughout the next two days.
The next move for the EMA is to document costs for sand, fuel and manpower. If the county spends more than $318,000, the county could seek federal reimbursement. “I doubt we will meet that threshold but we will gather the information in the event something happens elsewhere. That would allow the state to use our data to meet the state capita [threshold]. It may help the rest of the state and something may come back” to Vigo County, Kesler said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org