When water began seeping into his Whiteland business, Mike Wood remembered all the work and money that had gone into drainage upgrades when he opened.

Bailey & Wood Financial Group bought the property on Whiteland Road in 2012, and at the time, the drainage system around the building was rebuilt. He knew it was needed because the New Whiteland VFW, which had previously been there, had routinely flooded.

On Tuesday, water was at least a foot high in the parking lot and a few inches came inside. Workers put electronics higher and moved furniture. And then a second wave of water came after more rain in the afternoon, and they tried to push it out with squeegees, but found it was no use, he said.

“Basically, we put all that in for nothing,” he said.

Now, his staff is working out of a conference room, fans are spread all around the building to dry the carpets and he’s waiting to see how much water is in the drywall. Repairs could cost as much as $55,000, and he doesn’t have flood insurance because he isn’t in a floodplain, he said.

“This is not good,” Wood said.

Wood was one of a handful of businesses that flooded in Whiteland on Tuesday. Town officials are still working to get estimates on how many homes and businesses were damaged, but flood waters rose quickly throughout the town after heavy rain fell. As much as 3.75 inches of rain fell within about an hour, leading to massive flooding because the water could not drain fast enough, and then more rain continued to fall, totaling more than 7 inches, Whiteland Town Manager Norm Gabehart said.

But Gabehart also knows drainage is an issue that must be addressed in the town. In recent years, the town has installed larger drainage pipes in certain areas, which has helped in areas that have flooded in the past, such as along the railroad tracks.

On Tuesday, the water that flooded Wood’s business didn’t come from the front of the building, as it had in the past. It came from behind, and that is a key area Gabehart wants to address with a flood detention area that is in the works, he said.

The town has been working on a plan for a flood detention area off Front Street, north of Whiteland Road, where Clark-Pleasant schools owns about 25 acres of land. The plan is to build up mounds around the field, where water can pool in times of heavy rain, with a slow release that stops it from rushing further south where it floods businesses and homes along Whiteland Road, all the way west to Park Forest, Gabehart said.

Once the project is done, it will be the largest detention facility in the county and can hopefully help redraw the lines of floodplains in Whiteland and Franklin, relieving people from flooding and paying for flood insurance, he said.

Drainage projects are important to the town to protect infrastructure long-term, which is why the town has been focused on doing those projects in recent years. The work has been covered, in part, with the about $300,000 per year the town collects in stormwater fees.

And they have helped, Gabehart said. For example, new drainage pipes installed near the Oakville neighborhood provided relief to areas east of the railroad tracks that had flooded in the past. A new drainage system west of U.S. 31 near Whiteland Road also helped keep water out of homes, he said.

Before Tuesday, the town hadn’t had to bring out pumps to help drain areas in the two years since that work was done, he said. In the past, the pumps would have been needed for as little as an inch of rain, he said.

But he still knows the town was hit hard. In some areas, officials couldn’t drain the water because they had run out of pumps and the flooding wasn’t damaging homes or businesses, he said. Pumps were running outside of Wood’s business until the early morning hours on Wednesday, Wood said.

Town officials, firefighters and volunteers also filled thousands of pounds of sandbags, which he also thinks helped protect some homes from flood damage, Gabehart said.

At a glance

Whiteland wants to hear from home or business owners who have damage from floodwaters or sewer backups.

Call the town offices at 317-535-5531 to report damage.

Author photo
Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.