FORT WAYNE – Heavy rain caused flash flooding across northeast Indiana, with some residents in Fort Wayne’s Ferndale neighborhood having to be evacuated by boat.
Massive thunderstorms dumped vast amounts of rain on the area overnight, prompting Fort Wayne officials to prepare for flooding, even though the National Weather Service had not forecast rivers spilling out of their banks, Public Works Director Bob Kennedy said Friday morning.
As late as 11 p.m. Thursday, the weather service’s forecast for the rivers was for them to remain below flood stage. An 11:30 p.m. update changed that; but ironically, the first forecast was more accurate – while tributaries flooded, the rivers themselves largely behaved.
In Decatur, the St. Marys River crested at its flood stage of 17 feet. In Fort Wayne, it crested at 13.8 feet; flood stage is 14. It was still high enough, however, combined with street flooding, to close Thieme Drive in West Central neighborhood.
Though the Maumee River rose about 10 feet in 24 hours, and was 3.6 feet over flood stage Friday afternoon, the neighborhoods along the Maumee in Fort Wayne are protected by levees. Downstream in Riverhaven, however, the river had closed several roads and was approaching homes. It is forecast to crest at 23 feet today, putting at least a half-dozen Riverhaven homes in danger.
Kennedy said that despite the lack of flooding forecasts, crews were on standby all night and observers were placed in areas known to flood. In addition, pumps were stationed throughout the city, pumping out storm sewers to make more room for rainwater.
“When we saw all that rain, we just made the decision ourselves to be ready,” Kennedy said. “We have a whole network of gauges we watch carefully.”
A total of 3.03 inches of rain fell at Fort Wayne International Airport from late Wednesday through early Friday, including a record 2.32 inches on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Syracuse.
Kennedy said crews pumped all night long in the Ferndale neighborhood, on the city’s south side in Waynedale, but it wasn’t enough to stop flooding from the swollen Fairfield Ditch that runs behind the homes there.
About a dozen homes near Fernwood Avenue and Dalevue Drive were surrounded by water, with several of them flooded.
Fort Wayne Fire Department crews were called out at 7:26 a.m. by a resident on Dalevue who needed assistance getting out of her home. Firefighters used boats to help that resident and people in two other homes, spokeswoman Stacey Fleming said.
About 10:30 a.m., Animal Care & Control officers rescued two dogs that were left in a flooded yard there.
Mike Kinder, who lives at the corner of Fernwood and Dalevue, was out of town Thursday but had a feeling there would be flooding. He arrived home Friday morning to find the water 1 inch from coming into his house.
“I put everything up off the floor and tried to save a few things,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t come up any more.”
As he spoke, another neighbor shouted curses at the water, while garbage carts and recycling bins bobbed nearby.
Flooding along Spy Run Creek closed West State Boulevard, surrounded homes and made streets in the area impassable, but the water crested at 8 a.m. and was falling slowly. State Boulevard reopened early Friday afternoon, Westbrook Drive north of State opened later.
Homes were surrounded in the Junk Ditch area Friday morning, but the water appeared to be cresting as it slowly drained into the St. Marys River.
It was high enough, however, to close Taylor Street and several residential sidestreets in the area.
In Huntington, the Little River was approaching record levels Friday morning after shooting up nearly 15 feet in about 20 hours.
The Huntington mayor’s office said the river was causing significant flooding in several neighborhoods on the south side of the town, though water was beginning to recede.
Public safety crews were going door to door to assist affected residents.
According to the weather service, Huntington received more than 4.5 inches of rain over the past two days.
Nearly 4 inches fell in Columbia City, the weather service said.