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Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Ben and Machelle McHaney stand Saturday afternoon in the living room of their home in the 3500 block of Dalevue Drive. They say they plan to live upstairs without a kitchen or appliances until their home can be renovated.

After the water recedes

Residents wish city had better flood control

Ben McHaney’s measurement places the high-water mark at 26 inches. “This is the worst it’s been here,” said his wife, Machelle McHaney.
Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Mike and Wendy Kinder clean out their garage in the 6500 block of Fernwood Avenue on Saturday.
Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Joan Williams opens the windows in her home. Williams had 4 to 5 inches of flooding inside of her home.

As the city’s swollen rivers began to subside after a week of heavy rain, damages were revealed to residents in the Ferndale neighborhood.

Homeowners who live near the Fairfield Ditch in Waynedale said Saturday they are facing some of their worst flood damages, and they’re not sure the rain is completely to blame.

Homes closest to the ditch were inundated with 10 to 18 inches of water, and some residents had to be evacuated by boat on Friday.

Machelle McHaney and her husband, Ben, said 18 inches of water mixed with sewage entered their home Friday, and they weren’t able to get inside until 6 a.m. Saturday.

“This is the worst it’s been here,” Machelle McHaney said. “They said on the Weather Channel we would get 2.75 (inches). If it was 2.75 then you tell me why we flooded with 18 inches out here.”

A total of 3.03 inches of rain fell at Fort Wayne International Airport from late Wednesday through early Friday. The National Weather Service said there was widespread minor to moderate flooding in the region, with most of it concentrated in Allen, Grant and Marion counties.

In Fort Wayne, the Maumee, St. Joseph and St. Marys rivers had all crested and their levels were falling Saturday. The Maumee River was the only area river measured at moderate flood levels as it reached 20.64 feet – more than 3 feet above the 17-foot flood stage Friday evening. The Maumee was at 19.6 feet Saturday.

Forecaster Courtney Obergfell of the National Weather Service in Syracuse said that as of Friday, rainfall in Fort Wayne was 3 inches above the average for the month in the first 19 days.

“When you get that much rainfall in those short amount of days, that causes flood issues,” Obergfell said.

Ben McHaney said the area’s sewage and stormwater drainage are combined and often become backed up with heavy rain. The couple have gone through two damaging floods, with their home being inundated with 5 1/2 inches during Memorial Day weekend in 2011. The two lived upstairs for the rest of the summer until their home was completed.

Ben McHaney said that in 2011, city officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed neighbors that there are plans to install larger sewage lines, but that they have yet to see any construction on the ditch.

Machelle McHaney said she has tried to contact the city’s water maintenance department, Mayor Tom Henry and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

“No one wants to give us answers,” she said. “We all have jobs in this neighborhood, and we work really hard. We get all this money flood insurance gives us and we put right back into our homes just to have this happen again.”

Frank Suarez, public information officer with Fort Wayne City Utilities, said a wider stormwater pipe that will take more water away from that area is planned. The project is being designed and is expected to be advertised for bids in the fall and built next year, he said.

Ken Harmeyer, who has lived behind the McHaneys for 28 years, said he’s trying to be positive. He’s thankful city trash bins were delivered Saturday for neighbors as they throw out waterlogged carpet, and he’d rather stay in the upstairs part of his home for three months than take insurance money that could be used for Hurricane Sandy survivors to live in a hotel.

“I love living down here. My kids were all raised down here. If they (the city government) could fix the problem, it would be a great neighborhood,” Harmeyer said.

Machelle McHaney said she and her husband will live upstairs without a kitchen or appliances until their home can be renovated. She expects it will take at least four months.

She said they still have a mortgage to pay and can’t afford to move to a new home. It’s maddening to know that they once again have to go through the process of fixing up their home without any foreseeable solution in the future from the city.

“You can’t stop Mother Nature,” she said, “but they can help it out.”