Columbus rebuilds five years after record flood

It's been five years since devastating flooding in Columbus.
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Five years ago, people in parts of central Indiana were shocked when a morning of heavy rain led to some of the worst flooding in recent memory.

Heavy rain fell fast from June 6th to the 7th, causing damage from Columbus to Franklin to Martinsville. When the floodwater surged, Bartholomew County was hardest hit.

Nearly 3,000 homes were damaged, prompting nearly 1,000 evacuations. On that June day in 2008, John Quinn's family home in Columbus was right in the middle of it.

"Seven feet up. It was 7'3" on the outside of the house," Quinn explained, pointing to the siding halfway up his home.

Pictures he took a few days after the flood, show the damage in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood.

The furniture inside Quinn's home was waterlogged and tossed about by the water.

Five years later, the house is rebuilt and still here.

"We have new walls, new floors, new insulation, new plumbing, everything," Quinn said.

John chose to stay to help his father-in-law, who had Alzheimer's, so he wouldn't have to be moved into a nursing home.

But his house is one of the few that remain on Pleasant Grove Road.

"I live in the middle of the city, but there's a lot of country around," Quinn said. "There used to be a number of houses between here and on down. And now they're gone. The city bought them up so people would not be here if it ever flooded again."

It's not just homeowners who are rebuilding and recovering. Businesses that were hard hit are making changes too. Cummins Engine created a flood wall at its Tech Center to protect against future high water.

Flood walls are still going up at another Cummins plant nearby.

Columbus Regional Hospital, which suffered $220 million in damage, has them too. The hospital also reconfigured the basement to move critical care out of where water caused so much damage.

This week, the city of Columbus just unveiled a new flood risk management plan. It details how to respond, recover and prepare for flooding in the future.

"In 2008, we were reactive," said Columbus Police Lt. Matt Myers. "We aren't going to be caught off-guard like we were."

There's also a new emergency alert system in place.

"They can be notified by land line, their cell phones, email or texting," Myers said.

Now, if heavy rain's on the way, they can plug in numbers, look at maps and pinpoint which neighborhoods are in danger, then notify exactly who needs to evacuate and where they should go.

"It basically gives us time to save people's lives and hopefully to save property," Myers said.

For neighbors like John Quinn, it's peace of mind, after a disaster that forever changed this community.

"They've learned from it. They're improving from it and that's a positive and from that we'll go forward," Quinn said.

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Columbus flood plan