Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett drove through the city about 6 p.m. Tuesday night, looking for flood damage and talking to residents to see how the city weathered 6 inches of rainfall.
While water had gotten into homes and crawlspaces, and some residents had to be rescued, the city avoided massive structural damage.
He came back through the city 45 minutes later and noticed water bubbling out of the storm sewer grates in front of Triple Play BBQ on Jefferson Street. He headed south to look at Graham’s Wrecker Service and Generations Collision Services on Monroe Street along Youngs Creek and saw water rising in the parking lot.
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Another wave was coming as rain that fell further north in the county earlier in the day flowed south to Franklin.
“Just that fast, it started flooding,” Barnett said.
Downtown business owners started moving equipment and getting sandbags to protect their buildings. The city was forced to close parts of Jefferson Street and U.S. 31 when the water got too high.
Residents of the lower floors of two buildings at Parkside Apartments on South Street, just south of Youngs Creek, are displaced after water got inside. Finished basements in the Camelot subdivision on the west side of the city are flooded. Water got into garages, basements and crawl spaces across the downtown area. A few homes, including one on Lynhurst Drive, had water on the main floor, and workers spread across the city to try to tally the damage and offer help. Aerial images showed Greenlawn Cemetery underwater.
More than 15 people went to the temporary Red Cross shelter at Franklin Community Middle School, which remains open for any resident in the county who needs help. Most were picked up by family, but one resident spent the night on a cot. Barnett found a man who couldn’t get home sleeping in his truck at Wayne Street and Home Avenue about midnight and woke him up and sent him to the shelter, too.
Barnett encourages residents who have damage or who need help discarding of flood-ruined furnishings to call city hall or city council members for help and to report the damage.
Overall, the damage is less severe than in 2008 because homes that are prone to flooding were torn down after the buyout, and the city has improved drainage.
“We did the right thing by buying those properties and getting them out of the flood plain,” Barnett said. “Those homes would have flooded again.”
While water got inside Graham’s and drywall will have to be replaced, it was 5 feet higher during the 2008 flood, Barnett said.
At that time, city workers were first focused on city government offices that had flooded. City hall had flooded, and the police station, too. Police cars were destroyed by floodwaters. But this time, employees could immediately focus on residents only.
“We were able to be out helping those in need instead of digging ourselves out,” he said.
He thanked city employees, especially the street department, who worked tirelessly to help residents as the water came up.
On Wednesday, the water in the cemetery was nearly gone, and cemetery workers found headstones toppled by the current and knick-knacks, flowers and other memorabilia placed on headstones washed away. Workers are collecting anything they find, and residents can come to the cemetery office to claim any items that they had placed on headstones.
About 20 headstones, mostly on the northern side of the cemetery near Youngs Creek and the west side along U.S. 31, had been knocked down, said Stuart Smith, cemetery operations supervisor. Families are responsible for resetting or replacing their loved ones’ headstones because families, not the city, own the stones.
The water had gotten 1 to 2 feet high in some areas of the city cemetery. Floodwaters also flowed into the cemetery maintenance building, and city and parks employees worked until 10:30 p.m. to move heavy equipment and vehicles before they were ruined, Smith said.
One of the few remaining neighbors of the cemetery watched the water come up and remembered what happened nine years ago.
Sue Spurr, who lives on Hemphill Street just south of Greenlawn Cemetery, and her late husband didn’t want to leave their home of more than 35 years after the city began to buy the damaged homes and create an urban forest following the 2008 flood.
On Tuesday night, she watched floodwaters come up quickly and get within 40 feet of the single home that remains on the street.
“It was a little bit scary at times,” Spurr said. “It came up so fast.”
She had monitored the rainfall Tuesday and canceled two appointments due to flooded streets. After after the storms moved out, she thought she was in the clear.
“I thought, OK, we’re done,” Spurr said. “At 8 p.m., no we’re not.”
She said the water rose within 10 minutes and was moving quickly. Drivers had been using Hemphill since South Street along the cemetery was flooded. Within minutes, the city closed her street as well and sent drivers to Dunn Street.
The water eventually stopped rising but kept moving quickly.
“I can say I survived two now,” Spurr said of the flood of 2008 and this week.
Some Franklin parks are still under water, and employees haven’t been able to survey the extent of damage, parks and recreation director Chip Orner said. He was working to save equipment from the cemetery maintenance building Tuesday night and said the water came up quickly and the current was strong.
Parks workers didn’t have time to get all picnic tables secured to buildings or trees, so some will need to be found and moved. For example, a picnic table in Province Park along Youngs Creek was carried away and got caught on a shelter house, Orner said.
Shelter houses were all underwater, and the electronic gate at the dog park is likely ruined, he said.
During the 2008 flood, the community center was damaged by floodwaters. But drainage improvements kept any water from getting inside this week, Orner said.
Specific plans put in place when rebuilding a downtown property that was flooded in 2008 saved it from damage this week.
The Pavilion at Franklin, which is home to Triple Play BBQ and Shale Creek Brewing Co., formerly had housed Sparkel Cleaners, but after the 2008 flood, damage rendered it unusable. Former Mayor Fred Paris got a grant from a public-private Franklin development group, completed an environmental assessment required by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and began working to redevelop the building in 2015 — seven years after the flood.
He knew that the building was likely to flood again because of its location in the floodway. So he raised the floor 8 inches when the building on Jefferson Street west of the courthouse was being redeveloped, and left the floors as concrete.
On Tuesday night, as the waters rose, Paris and his staff began placing sandbags to keep floodwaters from getting inside. This time, it worked.
“It will happen someday,” Paris said. “I’ll get water in my building someday. I’m prepared for that.”
The area is prone to flood due to Youngs Creek to the south.
On Wednesday, he was pumping some water out of the restaurant’s basement. He already was thinking about how he wants to put a new focus on working with Barnett to relocate businesses to his west and south, which are in the floodway, Paris said.
“I got very lucky.”
The city can work with any property owner in the floodway who wants to voluntarily sell their home or building to the city and move out of the area, Barnett said. He is interested in talking to any property owner who would like to relocate. The city can purchase the properties, but can not rebuild on them, he said.
Report damage and get help discarding furnishings
If you have flood damage to your home or property, or would like the city to haul away items ruined by floodwaters, city officials ask that you call city hall or your city council member.
Franklin City Hall
Mayor Steve Barnett