News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 25, 2011

Emergency responders on standby with Wabash expected to reach 24 feet Wednesday, putting it in ‘moderate’ category

TERRE HAUTE — Officials aren’t loading animals into arks just yet, but preparations have been made just in case.

According to the National Weather Service, Terre Haute’s section of the Wabash River reached 18.91 feet at 2 p.m. Sunday, nearly 5 feet above flood stage. Forecasts call for the river to reach 24 feet by Wednesday.

Meteorologist Marc Dahmer said the river should reach 24 feet “sometime during the afternoon of the 27th, and that would put it into the moderate category.”

At 22 feet, the Wabash River is deemed to be in “moderate flooding,” with waters at critical stages near agricultural fields and homes in areas prone to flooding, he said. In the June 2008 historic floods, the Wabash River crested at 25.16 feet.

“So, the current forecast doesn’t have it getting up to that level, but it’s close,” he said.

According to dispatchers at the sheriffs’ departments of Clay, Parke and Sullivan counties, no road closures or floods were reported as of Sunday afternoon. Dispatchers in Greene County reported that Indiana 157 between Bloomfield and Worthington was still closed Sunday because of high waters.

J.D. Kesler, spokesman for the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, expressed doubts that waters will be as problematic this week as they were in June 2008, but said responders are ready just in case.

“We’ve pre-staged sandbags and have sand on standby,” he said, naming fire stations from Sugar Creek to Riley to Otter Creek. “We’re monitoring the river, of course.”

But the big problem in 2008 wasn’t so much the height of the river as it was the suddenness of the deluge. Between 10 and 12 inches of rain came down within 24 hours, hitting grounds that were saturated the week before. Still, residents of areas prone to flooding should be prepared, he said.

Dahmer said the Wabash Valley should get another 2 to 4 inches of rain between Sunday evening and Thursday morning. The ground is already saturated, meaning runoff will go straight into the river and downstream.

“We just keep getting rains over the same areas. It seems like every day now,” he said. Downstream from Terre Haute, the town of Mount Carmel is forecast to see a 33.1-foot river cresting by Friday night. “The record there is 34 feet,” he added.

Temperatures should remain in the mid-60s to lower 70s throughout the week, he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.

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