As water rushed into businesses and homes, residents, workers and town officials feverishly stacked sandbags in Whiteland.
The town got 3.5 inches of rain in one hour Tuesday, and more than 6.5 inches total by the time the rain began to subside in the afternoon, Whiteland Town Manager Norm Gabehart said.
“We are at the level of disaster,” he said.
At least seven homes and two businesses flooded near the railroad crossing along Whiteland Road, he said. The area is exactly where officials would like to eventually build a retention facility to collect rainwater to prevent flooding, he said.
The damaged buildings included at least five homes on Front Street and at least two homes along Brewer Street and businesses along Whiteland Road, including Bailey and Wood Financial Group and Beads Unlimited, he said.
Roads throughout Whiteland and New Whiteland were under water, including parts of Tracy Road, Whiteland Road and U.S. 31. But as the rain subsided, waters began to recede and more roads were passable by the afternoon, New Whiteland Town Council member John Perrin said.
For Mike Lasiter, who lives in New Whiteland, seeing the street in his home fill with water drew him outside to try to clear the drains. The streets routinely flood when the drains get too full, and he worries the water will reach his neighbors’ homes, he said.
“It’s just been so much rain and these drains just can’t keep up,” he said.
“That’s why I was trying to clear them out, maybe save them some damage.”
Lasiter knows all about flood damage. In 2008, he lived in Whiteland near the town hall, and his house took in 4 feet of water, he said. Since then, he tore down his house and moved to New Whiteland, where his home is now on high ground, he said.
The areas that flooded weren’t the same as in the 2008 flood, Gabehart said. But the rain also fell much faster this time, he said.
Tuesday’s flooding was the worst Laura Young has ever seen in her neighborhood near U.S. 31 and Tracy Road in New Whiteland, she said. She saw boats floating down her street so residents could get around since there was no way a car could drive through, she said.
“We never thought we would see this again, but it’s almost worse than it was before,” she said.
The water had dropped at one point by about 5 inches after the rain stopped briefly, but then it started rising again. By afternoon, water had reached the back tires of her car parked outside, she said. She had no idea how to get out of her neighborhood to pick up her daughter from practice at Whiteland Community High School, she said.
Multiple police officers, firefighters and street department workers were out making sure vehicles didn’t drive on flooded roads, Perrin said.
But emergency crews still had at least two water rescues throughout the day.
Water had started receding by the afternoon as the rain slowed, but Gabehart was especially concerned about the bridge over a drainage ditch on Whiteland Road, in front of the high school, as water from northern communities traveled downstream, he said.
That will be a key area officials will watch now, he said.