Days of heavy rainfall led to major flooding in Warrick County throughout the weekend and into this week.
A total of 6.25 inches of rain was documented in the area between Tuesday, Feb. 20 and Sunday Feb. 25. The resulting flooding of the Ohio River led to flooding of waterways throughout the county.
By Tuesday morning, the Ohio River had risen to 49.93 feet in the Newburgh area and was expected to continue to rise to 50.3 feet. More rain was predicted for Tuesday evening and Wednesday into Thursday before press time, but the river was predicted to stop swelling and decrease after
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hitting the peak swell on Wednesday morning.
On Monday, Warrick County was added to a list of 18 counties in which Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a disaster emergency due to the damage sustained in the flooding. A distaster declaration means the state Department of Homeland Security can take necessary actions to provide expanded emergency services and is a step the state is required to take to request assistance from the federal government.
Many Warrick County residents were effected by the flooding. Some residents with houses lower to the Ohio River worked to protect the lower levels of their homes from the high river levels.
Newburgh resident Laura Marburger said she only purchased her home last year and is experiencing the river flooding for the first time. Her basement sits at 49 feet, just below the predicted 50.3 feet.
Marburger said the basement of her home is not yet finished, but the contractor and her neighbors joined in to help put sandbags around the lower level of her home to hopefully prevent the flood waters from damaging the basement.
"They all offered, I didn't ask anyone," she said. "I love Newburgh. It's such a community. ...As soon as everyone saw the river rising they all offered to come by and help. So it's been wonderful."
Newburgh Town Manager Christy Powell said most of the flooding is affecting residents along the river along with the Edgewater Grill that sits on the edge of the River on Water Street in Newburgh. However, she said there is also damage to the riverwalk and the Old Lock and Dam building.
"The cleanup is going to be horrendous," she said.
Powell said the city knows there is already damage to the historic building and the walkways, but until the water recedes and debris is cleared, it is uncertain how much damage has been done by the flooding. She said the city is working to clear the debris and get water moving in order to begin assessing the damage.
"Anything to free up drains and get water moving is what we're doing now," she said.
Warrick County Emergency Manager David Woolen said the agency started working to make sandbags available for residents starting last week. He said there were several locations where sand and bags were made available.
Now, he said the challenge will be to wait for the waters to recede in order to be able to assess the damage left behind.
"I think everybody has sandbagged to the point that they think they're going to need," he said. "It's just a wait and see now to see where the water actually stops."
Woolen said the flooding isn't limited to just in the area of the Ohio River. He said whenever the river floods, bodies of water throughout the county also flood.
"Whenever the river gets to a certain point, the rest of them get backed up," he said.
In addition to structural damage in buildings, Warrick County roads have also been feeling the force of the flooding.
Warrick County Highway Engineer Bobby Howard said the county's roads were already in poor shape following the winter storm in January, but are now facing new issues with the flooding. He said the flooding is forcing the Highway Department to reevaluate plans for road improvements this year.
"Right now, in areas that we know about, we're going through and patching holes with either gravel, cold mix or dirt patch machines where we can," he said. "We're hitting all those areas right now, but that is temporary for the roads until we can get our plan figured out for what we're doing this year with our paving list."
Howard said the funds are already decided for road work this year. He said the work to fix damages from the winter storm and the flooding will likely take away from plans to improve roads.
"We'll be evaluating all these roads coming up here in March," he said. "Hopefully, all the weather events have passed at that point. With this passed weather, it's caused a lot of washouts. It's caused more damage on a lot of our roadways."
In fact, Howard said a fallen tree washed into a culvert on Fuquay Road in between Newburgh and Chandler which caused the road to sustain heavy damage resulting in a large portion of the road to wash out. He said the road has been temporarily mended with gravel, but will need substantial repair later in the year.
"We've got that temporarily fixed to allow for school and other traffic until we can get a permanent culvert sized for that location," he said. "It's affecting our planning and our paving list for the coming year because now we'll have to evaluate and repair all this damage with the same amount of funding that we had to improve roads with. Our improvement list is declining as more and more damage becomes apparent from these weather events."
Howard said residents can call the Warrick County Highway Garage at 812-897-6126 to report damage to roads in their area.