HUNTINGTON – The region’s flood-prone areas dodged a bullet Friday as rivers crested sooner – and much lower – than forecasts had predicted.
The Little River in Huntington had been expected to break the 1950 record of 20 feet, but it leveled off more than 4 feet below that point.
The river was at 3.21 feet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, then shot up to 15 feet at 5 p.m., where it leveled off. At 10 a.m. Friday, it crested at 15.4 feet; flood stage is 15 feet.
Richard King was among those breathing a sigh of relief.
King’s house is on East State Street, the first place to flood when the Little River rises. Friday morning, his basement windows and garage were sandbagged, and an industrial pump stood ready if needed. But the river – at least at King’s house – was in its banks. Just a house or two down, the backyards were flooded.
But it could have been much worse.
We’ve been through two floods already, this would have been the third, King said. I’ve lost two brand-new furnaces, two water heaters already. The one in January took one of my cars.
The January flood – caused by an ice jam – was even more frightening than Thursday’s breathtaking rise in the river level. King’s fiancée, Crystal Mullins, let the dogs outside to go to the bathroom, and everything was fine. Fifteen minutes later, she heard them crying and found water chest-deep in the backyard.
Still, he loves living on the river, especially during the summer. Would he take a buyout if one were offered?
He’s not sure.
Six people took buyouts in Fort Wayne’s Ferndale neighborhood. Water in the Fairfield Ditch stayed in its banks Friday, and it seemed the area was breathing a sigh of relief – even as crews began work for a flood-control project there to protect the homes left after the buyouts.
Other rivers stayed well below their forecast levels.
The St. Marys River in Fort Wayne was expected to hit 18.4 feet, which would have flooded the Calhoun and Tillman areas and Foster Park Golf Course, but it began leveling off around 12 feet.
Flood stage is 14 feet; the river is expected to hit 13.2 feet at 8 a.m. today.
Upstream in Decatur, forecasters said the St. Marys would hit 22.8 feet, which would have closed important roads. Instead, it crested at 19.28 feet and is expected to stay below 20 feet. Flood stage there is 17 feet.
The Eel River in North Manchester was forecast to hit 13.7 feet early today, but it crested Friday at 0.23 feet above its flood stage of 9 feet.
The Maumee was expected to hit 22.3 feet by Sunday, which would have affected homes in Riverhaven, but it is now expected to stay below 20 feet.
Other rivers in the area also appeared to have leveled off much lower than had been forecast.
Still, water levels remained high Friday evening, and many low-lying areas were flooded.
Motorists should never drive through flooded roadways, especially if the water is moving rapidly, and never drive around barriers.
Chris Meyers of The Journal Gazette contributed to this report.