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Flood damage short of aid level

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After only two residents reported damage to their homes due to a flood days before Christmas, the county no longer is pursuing funding that would help pay for repairs.

About 5 inches of rain fell throughout the day on Dec. 21, causing flooding that shut down more than 80 roads and led to a voluntary evacuation of one Center Grove area subdivision. Although high water closed roads and started rising in neighborhoods throughout the county, little damage was reported, Johnson County Emergency Management director Stephanie Sichting said.

County commissioners signed a local emergency declaration during the flood, which is one of the first steps in applying for disaster aid. Local officials were starting to gather information about damage, but it soon became apparent the county wouldn’t meet the required threshold to qualify for a disaster, Sichting said.

Whether the county needs money from the state or federal government to help pay for the costs of the cleanup from this month’s snowstorm is unknown. The county is still totaling expenses such as overtime pay, salt and sand costs and equipment expenses in an effort to get help to pay for the costs.

To qualify for disaster relief funds, the county needs to be able to show at least $3.50 of damage for every person living in the county. With a population of about 144,000, that means total damage around $500,000. The state has to total about $9 million in damage to declare a state disaster and become eligible for federal relief funds, Sichting said.

Only two residents reported their homes had flood damage, but they hadn’t had insurance adjusters come out yet to give estimates because of the holidays and snowstorm last week, Sichting said. Even after adding in costs for overtime for police, firefighters or other emergency workers, the county wouldn’t get near the threshold, she said.

“The flood, we would never get close to that. There’s no way,” Sichting said.

The county is now focusing on tallying the costs of last week’s snowstorm, which might meet the $500,000 mark due to the number of workers who were out plowing, fighting fires, helping motorists and repairing power outages, she said. Sichting has reports from Johnson County REMC, Bargersville and Prince’s Lakes about their expenses and is getting information from the county highway department, Greenwood and Franklin, she said.

If the county and state meet the cost thresholds and the federal government makes a disaster declaration for the Midwest snowstorm, local governments could get reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Sichting said.

The scope of damage from the pre-Christmas flood came nowhere close to a level warranting pursuit of relief money.

Graham’s Auto Wrecker in Franklin was flooded with 7 inches of water. Owner Scott Graham told city officials the water caused about $10,000 worth of damage, and he has asked the city to make improvements to drainage in the area of downtown where his business is located. A Greenwood woman who lives on Main Street west of U.S. 31 had about 20 inches of water back up into her basement, which knocked out her furnace and damaged items stored downstairs.

Water flooded neighborhoods in Greenwood and the Center Grove area that hadn’t had high water before, but most residents didn’t report damage to homes. Several feet of water flooded the streets in Stone Village subdivision near Stones Crossing Road and State Road 135 after leaves clogged storm drains. The water in the street was deep enough that firefighters had to take 11 people who wanted to evacuate out in boats, but the water never made it into homes.

“I don’t think anybody got water into their house. It got right up to the doors but never got into the house. It kind of got into the garage but didn’t cause any damage in there,” Stone Village resident Mary Richardson said.

Mike Barker, who was house-sitting for a friend in the subdivision, also said the water rose high into the yard but never got into the house.

In rural areas, water cut people off from their homes, including Ann Wesseler who had to stay in a motel in Franklin on the night of the flood. The next day she was able to drive 7 miles around the high water and eventually made it home. She found she had no damage because her house sits on a hill, she said.

Roads in rural parts of the county did have some pavement chip away because of high water, but there was no major damage, such as collapsed drainpipes or washed-out roads, county highway director Luke Mastin has said.

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