Cars drove off the road in high water, water rushed over roads and bridges and residents were evacuated or urged to leave their homes during torrential rains Tuesday that caused flood damage across the county.
Some residents didn’t know how they were supposed to get home or couldn’t leave their homes for hours.
Homes and businesses across the county were damaged when flood waters came inside after downpours for hours Tuesday, but the full extent of the damage wasn’t immediately known as emergency officials hadn’t been able to get to all areas to survey the damage.
Radar estimates show the Center Grove area got 7 to 8 inches in a 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Herold said. Four to five inches fell in Franklin during the same time period, while the southern and northeast sections of Johnson County received a couple of inches of rain, he said.
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The totals fall short of the 2008 record of as much as 11 inches in one day but still caused damage in neighborhoods and to vehicles.
Hours after the rain stopped, Franklin officials closed U.S. 31 near Blue Heron Park and Greenlawn Cemetery because rising waters had covered the highway. A portion of Jefferson Street west of the Johnson County Courthouse also closed because of rising waters. A wrecker business on Monroe Street along Youngs Creek began moving equipment as water levels rose, Mayor Steve Barnett said.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at Franklin Community Middle School.
Bargersville Fire Chief Jason Ramey, who was working the morning of the massive 2008 flood in Johnson County, said the situation Tuesday morning was eerily similar.
Barnett said Tuesday’s flooding reminded him of the massive flooding that damaged dozens of homes in Franklin nine years ago, though it wasn’t the same.
“We are not going to see an ’08 effect, but this is not good,” Barnett said.
Across the county, at least 20 roads in the Center Grove area, Greenwood, Bargersville, New Whiteland, Whiteland and Franklin were closed Tuesday, at least 10 homes and two businesses were damaged by flood waters and one home caught fire after being struck by lightning. At least four people were rescued from high water.
County officials will be working in the coming days to determine if there has been enough damage to qualify for emergency relief funds, Johnson County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Sichting said. Total damage to uninsured properties needs to total about $500,000 for the county to qualify. Much of that total would likely come from damage to roads and culverts, which will be inspected once the water has receded, she said.
The downpours had emergency crews constantly working to rescue residents and drivers or checking on stalled cars, keeping roads closed and being ready to evacuate neighborhoods, if needed. Police officers couldn’t get to a man in a vehicle in three feet of water, and firefighters were called. Other drivers scrambled to the roofs of their vehicles after being surprised by high water or underestimating its depth and power. High water closed the area of Graham Road and Earlywood Drive in Franklin, then a second storm blew or washed away the barricades.
“We had a lot of rain in a really short time,” Sichting said. “Our emergency responders, they did an excellent job in getting from call to call to call.”
By 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, water was waist-high near homes on 14th Street in Franklin. Residents of Northwood Apartments on Cedar Lane, just off U.S. 31, in the city were being encouraged, but not forced, to leave their homes. In Whiteland, homes and businesses along Front Street and the railroad tracks had been damaged by flood waters, town manager Norm Gabehart said.
Sichting toured Whiteland in the afternoon and said extensive flooding had damaged at least several businesses and homes, but a full count wasn’t available because water was too deep to allow for driving on many roads.
Town workers were frantically unloading sand bags in key areas to try to prevent more damage, and Gabehart said the area near the railroad tracks had been hit hard.
“We are at the level of disaster,” he said.
The rain came in two bursts. A morning storm dropped 6 inches of rain. More than 3.5 inches fell in one hour in Whiteland. Another storm passed through the county during the afternoon, raising fears that waters hadn’t had enough time to recede and the area could face massive flooding, but far less rain fell during that second storm.
One resident had to be evacuated from the El Dorado neighborhood in the Center Grove area. Another got stuck in high water at the Morgantown Road and Brentridge Parkway intersection and also had to be rescued, White River Township Fire Chief Jeremy Pell said.
The Bargersville Fire Department brought in boats to rescue residents of the Stone Village neighborhood near State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road, if needed, and also asked for nearby residents to make their boats available.
Residents in New Whiteland watched as their neighbors drove boats to get through the streets that were far too flooded to drive on.
Tuesday’s flooding was the worst Laura Young has seen in her neighborhood near U.S. 31 and Tracy Road in New Whiteland since 2008, she said.
“We never thought we would see this again, but it’s almost worse than it was before,” she said.
Dozens of roads across the county were closed at one point, including most east-west routes from Franklin to Greenwood. Key routes were closed or flooded at times, including Smith Valley Road, Stones Crossing Road, sections of State Road 135 and County Road 144 and Tracy Road, and residents struggled to get home or get out of their neighborhoods. Residents were asked to stay off the roads, and emergency officials said traveling was dangerous.
Lightning caused a house fire in Greenwood, and six other homes across the county were hit by lightning, Sichting said.
The fire on Ashton Lane, northwest of Stones Crossing Road and North County Road 125W, started at 8:50 a.m. Greenwood firefighters had the blaze out by 9:30 a.m., department spokesperson Chad Tatman said.
One resident who was home at the time of the fire was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. A dog was also rescued from the home. The White River Fire Department assisted in fighting the fire, Tatman said.
The fire damage was mostly contained to the basement, but the rest of the house had smoke and water damage.
In the Knollwood Farms neighborhood, off U.S. 31 in Franklin, water was nearing homes, streets were impassable and cars were stalled in the water, Barnett said. Officials were paying close attention to that northern area of the city, where Barnett expected homes likely had water in basements, he said.
On 14th Street, water was high enough to reach the homes, and Barnett expected to get reports of damage, though none had come in yet as of Tuesday afternoon, he said.
The city also asked residents in Northwood Apartments to voluntarily evacuate because high water would not allow residents and emergency vehicles to get in and out of the complex, Barnett said. Because of that, and the flooding on 14th Street, the city and emergency management asked the Red Cross to open an emergency shelter at Franklin Community Middle School. But only one person came by the afternoon.
Seeing flooding again in Franklin gave Barnett a sick feeling, but by afternoon, much of the water had started receding, he said.
“I do see it getting better; it’s been kind of a nerve-wracking day,” he said.
The county will be working to assess total damage from Tuesday’s rainfall.
Residents who have home or property damage not covered by their insurance are asked to contact Johnson County Emergency Management at 317-736-9064.