Kokomo cleans up from record flooding
Five days after the Wildcat Creek hit its highest flood level on record, Kokomo is slowly recovering.
Wednesday brought rain and a light snow mix to north central Indiana, and that hampered flood clean-up.
The Wildcat Creek is back within its banks, a huge difference from Saturday when the water was well above flood stage. Last week, residents were paddling around in canoes and the water reached just under the first floor windows - which are five to six feet above ground. Water levels rose so fast that some people had to be rescued from their vehicles.
In Foster Park in downtown Kokomo, yellow playground equipment that was under water Saturday is now visible again.
Mayor Greg Goodnight says they're still gathering data to determine the extent of the damage. Local and federal lawmakers have extended offers of help. Once those numbers are in, the mayor says he's confident that help will start rolling in.
Up to 200 homes were damaged in the flooding and about a dozen were condemned as a result of water damage.
Those hit hardest by the flooding are cleaning up and looking for help to get back on their feet.
"You see how high the water got on the inside," said Lashanda Thomas.
Thomas and her husband, Michael, are just now able to start assessing the damage in their home.
"These floors got ruined, too. My new laminate floors," she said.
A lot of things were new in the couple's home, because they had just finished some major renovations, including the kitchen.
"It's not big, but it's mine. The water up to here on the inside of the cabinet," Lashanda said.
Everywhere they look, they find ugly calling cards of Wildcat Creek's terror on their home.
"This is supposed to be clear," Lashanda said.
This couple is all about family and, right now, their five children are scattered about, staying with family and friends.
"We just want somewhere to stay so family doesn't have to be all spread out," Michael said.
"It's been very hard, but I'm trying to keep the faith," Lashanda said.
For now, the Thomas family is in the dark - literally - in more ways than one. The power company took their meter box and they're not sure when they're going to get that back, if ever, because they're now hearing word their home may be condemned.
"We've heard about condemning certain houses and we still haven't talked to anybody about that," she said.
The Thomas family says they have struggled to find information, but the city and local non-profits have been working around the clock to assemble a network of resources.
"211 has everything you need," said Abbie Smith, United Way of Howard County.
"This is extremely hard, because this is our first home and it's almost paid off," Lashanda said.
The United Way runs the 211 program. All you have to do is dial 211 and you'll be patched in to Howard County Disaster Relief to walk you through the help and resources available.
Eyewitness News sent the Thomas family to our contact at the mayor's office, who was able to point them in the right direction. They are now getting the immediate and long-term help they need.
Months ago, the mayor brought in engineers to find ways to cut flooding in the city.
"There is really some open ground. Existing park areas and open fields, things like that, that would really not impact any structures," Goodnight said.
Some homes could be moved, but the city is focusing on using open land and parks first, redoing those places so they can hold even more overflow from Wildcat Creek and keeping it out of the neighborhoods.
Lebanon and Elwood are also cleaning up from record flooding last week.
Also, some people who live in homes along the Tippecanoe River south of the Oakdale Dam near Monticello are being asked to voluntarily evacuate after the National Weather Service issued a flood warning following heavy overnight rains.
The weather service says flooding along the Tippecanoe River is expected to be lower than last week. The weather service also says people living along the Little River near Huntington in northeast Indiana may have to evacuate.
The weather service says Kokomo, Indianapolis, Carmel and Fishers all received more than an inch of rain through Wednesday morning.
The weather service says near major flooding is expected along the Wabash and White rivers in southwest Indiana, with crests the highest since June 2008. Moderate flooding is expected along the Wabash near New Harmony.
Other communities clean up
Plan to cut flooding