News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 1, 2013

VIDEO: Wabash Valley residents start flood cleanup process

Vigo, Clay officials declare local state of emergency

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Several Wabash Valley counties are assessing damage as a result of flooding along the Wabash River, Eel River and Big Walnut Creek.

Officials in Vigo and Clay counties have declared a local state of emergency, allowing the counties to submit documented expenses to the state for possible reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

However, reimbursements are not guaranteed.

Each county must reach a documented damage threshold and the state must also reach at least $9 million in damages before any federal reimbursement can be sought, said Bryan Husband, director of the Clay County Emergency Management Agency.

Husband said Clay County’s threshold, based on population, is $90,000 in damages.

“We did have damage, such as the city of Brazil had water pump damage” at its city-owned water station along Big Walnut Creek in Putnam County. “We had four to five homes damaged from water in Clay County,” Husband said.

“Right now, we don’t know the exact [costs of damage] to county roads. The county is still assessing roads and drainage pipes washed out. We think we will reach that threshold just from roads and bridges,” he said.

Vigo County has a threshold of $318,000 in documented damages for any federal reimbursement, said Vigo County commissioner Brad Anderson.

“The county EMA is still assessing damages to homes, also what road work is needed, plus how much sand and sand bags were used,” Anderson said.

Jim Pirtle, director of the Sullivan County EMA, said the county “has not declared anything as we are waiting to see if there is any damage we missed as the river recedes. Our major problem is on Island levee,” located between Graysville and Hutsonville, Ill., along Indiana 154, he said.

“We have been meeting with the U.S. Corps of Engineers. It looks like the levee will have to be cut out and repaired, but we don’t know how yet,” Pirtle said.

David Costin, deputy director of the Putnam County EMA, said they have conducted a damage assessment.

 “We have 22 plus homes affected and probably about $120,000, we are estimating in county road damage,” Costin said.

“We also have about $3,000 in public safety response in gasoline and man hours during the [flooding] situation,” he said.

Costin estimated 25 homes were impacted throughout the county.  Of that, the vast majority — 22 homes — were all in a 1-mile area of Reelsville, along Big Walnut Creek.

 “We had two of those homes completely destroyed and a handful were major [damage], with the rest minor,” Costin said.

“It is the worst flooding since 2008, but it was not as bad as in 2008,” he said.

Costin said many residents of Reelsville were “under insured and the local fire department is taking collections to help get their homes cleaned up and do some repairs in Reelsville as well as accepting supplies.”

Putnam County EMA Director Tom Helmer said his department wanted to get an assessment first, before asking county commissioners to declare a local state of emergency. Helmer said damage assessments still need to come in from the southern portion of Indiana before state officials will know if a damage threshold is reached.

Helmer said Putnam County commissioners will likely consider a disaster declaration later this month.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or