Flood gates played role in Broad Ripple flooding


The City of Indianapolis says flood gates on the White River should have been open during Tuesday's heavy rains. Instead, they were closed - and water flooded the busy streets of Broad Ripple.

Kara Brooks, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, said, "We're trying to determine how long they were closed and how they were closed. Those gates are inspected periodically."

Some businesses reported water damage. The Petite Chou Cafe had the worst damage, with water flooding the restaurant's interior. Owner Martha Hoover said, "It was a flash flood, a freak flood. Within a minute or less the restaurant filled up with a foot of water."

She said a couple of early diners had to be "airlifted" out or rather carried out "by a couple of kitchen guys."

Hoover said she was not sure when the restaurant would reopen, noting much of it needed to be rebuilt.

At the Flatwater Restaurant, also on Westfield Boulevard, workers spent Tuesday night and much of Wednesday ripping up flooring and airing the place out.

Owner Mike Younts said, "We suffered a lot of water damage on the floors inside but fortunately the kitchen is dry and we cleared the health department this morning."

Younts reopened the restaurant/bar Wednesday afternoon - the first night of live music on the deck.

Heavy rain and storms passed through Indianapolis Tuesday evening, leading to the flash flooding. Initially, DPW thought there was a water main break, but Brooks said they soon discovered that two flood gates which are normally open were closed, trapping the storm water.

It had no place to go but back into the streets. If the gates had been open, the water would have flowed into the White River.

The flood gates, which are located in the 6500 block of Westfield opposite the American Legion, serve a dual purpose. When White River levels reach the 25-year flood level, the gates are shut to keep water from overflowing into the city's sewer system and flooding Broad Ripple. Normally, they are open to allow for storm overflow into the river.

Numerous cars got stuck in rising water just after 5:00 pm. Water shot out of manhole covers along several streets north of Broad Ripple Avenue. Chopper 13 flew over numerous cars stranded on flooded streets.

"I looked up from my computer and there was about three feet worth of water coming through the door and it was just like pouring in," said Brandi Johnson of the Lucky-B Boutique.

She managed to avoid damage to her shop's inventory, but was looking at having to replace her bamboo floors. Like others, she was slow to point fingers.

"i'm not going to blame anyone right now," Johnson said. "I just hope they figure out the problem so it doesn't happen again."

Brooks said the gates can be opened manually or electronically, but only by those authorized to do so. She said the gates were last inspected in January.

"We're exploring every possibility," she said, including who closed it and why or whether it was perhaps a malfunction.

Most business owners who had damage said they were covered by insurance. Brooks said they could also file a tort claim through the city. Wednesday night though, most were still focused on cleaning up and opening up.