ELKHART — The abundance of snow and ice in Elkhart County may continue to cause problems even after it’s gone.
As spring approaches and warming temperatures creep in, the combination of melting snow and ice could result in flooding and damages to homes and businesses.
Temperatures in Elkhart will climb to the mid-30s by Monday and could reach nearly 50 degrees by next Friday, according to The Weather Channel.
“The worst-case scenario would be a rapid warm-up with rainfall that would cause sudden release [of snow and ice], and most of it would go to runoff and cause large flood problems,” said Patrick Murphy, meteorologist for the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast office in Syracuse. “That’s not to say that’s going to happen, but in the next few days we are going to start seeing a slow warming trend.”
Right now there’s up to 3½ inches of water equivalent in the snow packed throughout northern Indiana, Murphy said. That much water would be unable to penetrate the frozen ground if a sudden warm-up were to occur.
“Normally you’d have a runoff in the ground, but when the ground is as hard as it is now you will have some low-line flooding because it has no place to go,” said Michael Pennington, deputy director of Elkhart County Emergency Management.
Pennington said he’s not sure that next week’s temperatures will cause enough melting to result in widespread flooding, but people in flood-prone areas should be alert.
The county is offering free self-service sandbag operations at three locations around the county: County Highway Garage on C.R. 7; New Paris Boy Scout Camp on C.R. 146; and Elkhart Street Department on 17th Street.
Those stations will offer empty bags and sand, which residents can fill by themselves and bring back to their properties to divert water from areas that could be affected. Pennington recommends bringing a shovel.
Corky Towne, president of Towne Fire and Water Damage Restoration in Elkhart, says roofs and basements are especially prone to damage during the transition from winter to spring.
Roof damage occurs when ice on roofs begins to melt. The water backs up into the shingles and works its way into the house. Towne said this can be avoided by using a hot power washer or heat cables to clear roofs and gutters of snow and ice.
Another vulnerable area is the basement. Damages can happen there when large amounts of melted snow and ice make its way in through windows and cracks in a property’s walls or pipes. On top of structural damages, furniture and electronics can also be destroyed.
“You can get into thousands of dollars of damages real quickly,” Towne said.
If a wet basement isn’t dried out properly, mold can also become an issue.
As warmer temperatures approach, Pennington says he's hopeful that Elkhart will experience a slower thaw, which will minimize damages and allow the ground to gradually absorb water.
"Several days of 60 degrees would really hurt us," he said.