Risk of flooding along riverbanks

Truth file photo Meteorologists warn that heavy rainfall could cause moderate flooding this week. Last year's flood was moderate to severe.

ELKHART— Excessive rainfall during the early part of the week has created a risk for flooding along the riverbanks through Thursday morning, according to officials at the National Weather Service of Northern Indiana.

The agency issued a flash flood watch for the counties of LaPorte, St. Joseph, Elkhart, Starke, Pulaski, Marshall, Fulton, White, Berrien and Cass through noon today, but the ramifications could remain for several hours afterward, officials there said.

“The rivers are still rising here and really not forecasted to crest until this evening,” Nathan Marsili, NWS meteorologist, said.

Showers and thunderstorms will continue through Thursday with locally heavy rain, as well as strong thunderstorms all a possibility, the hazardous weather outlook indicated.

The Elkhart River is expected to crest by Wednesday evening with moderate flooding in Goshen, while the St. Joseph River is expected to crest Thursday afternoon with minor flooding in Elkhart.

“This is mainly for those along the rivers especially,” Marsili explained of the flood risk.

For reference, the record-breaking February flood of 2018 was labelled at moderate to severe flooding.

Heavy rainfall occurring in the southern portion of the county is also expected to create extensive agricultural flooding the area from Nappanee trough Millersburg, where rainfall reached up to three inches Tuesday night.

A small chance of rain Wednesday as up to half an inch on Thursday could increase the stay of the high rivers, but as of Wednesday, flood waters are expected to recede May 4.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty with how much rain could fall tomorrow, but at least today it looks like amounts should be minor,” Marsili said on Wednesday.

The weekend also shows a risk of additional watery conditions, as the county sits on the northern end of another system expected to bring more rainfall.

“It looks like we could have a period of rain that moves across Central Indiana but amounts shouldn’t be too high,” Marsili said.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese met with city departments on Wednesday to take proactive measured to communicate with and assist the public, a press release said.

According to the Mayor's Office, Island Park is likely to flood, and the city has temporarily closed the fishing pier on the northwest corner of the park, as well as the walking path at Studebaker Park. 

Elkhart Fire Department personnel are actively monitoring neighborhoods along Arch Street, Folsom Street, Middlebury Street, Aspenwald Avenue, North 5th and 6th streets, as well as Hudson Street, the Mayor's Office said Wednesday afternoon. The city hopes that this visibility will alleviate any concerns from residents and assure them of the city’s preparedness.

Any Elkhart resident needing sandbags can obtain them at the Elkhart Street Department, located at 2421, S. 17th St. Sandbags will be available outside of the gate at all times.

The Elkhart Homeless Coalition also advised the city Wednesday that Faith Mission, located at 801 Benham Avenue, has created a flood amnesty period beginning immediately for those seeking shelter. A warrant check will not be required.

If flooding does occur, Neese is encouraging residents to heed the following safety tips:

· Never attempt to walk or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

· If you come across a flooded road, please report it to Elkhart City Dispatch at 574-293-2175 when it is safe to do so. If you are in danger, call 911.

· Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable.

· If floodwaters rise around your vehicle but the water is not moving, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground. However, if the water is moving, you should not abandon your vehicle.

· Avoid parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

· Move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from potential flood damage.

· Monitor local radio, TV and social media for weather updates and emergency instructions.

Friday looks to offer clear skies, as do both Sunday and Monday.

To stay tuned, visit the National Weather Service of Northern Indiana online at www.weather.gov/iwx or follow them on Facebook.

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