Northwest Ind. residents forced out by water

Mandatory evacuation for some Munster residents
September 15, 2008 8:49:53 PM PDT
Munster, Indiana, was hit hard by flooding from heavy rain over the weekend.Munster residents were trying to keep up as the waters of the Little Calumet River continued to rise Tuesday. As of 4 p.m., there were a few evacuations still going on as those homeowners tried doing whatever they could to save their homes from the flood waters before they left.

Joe Kisel said he hasn't given up the fight to save his home.

"It has been rising. I was up until 4 o'clock last night, and it seems like it tapered off. But now this morning it started rising again. I think the bank breached again," he said.

As the rain-swollen Little Calumet River crested at a record high over 17 feet, the storm waters continued to swallows anything in their path, including the home of James and Linda Cross.

"I got like three pumps going, but it's coming in faster than what I'm pushing it out. But I figure, whatever I can get out, I get out, better than in, trying to keep ahead of it, but it is not working too well," James Cross said.

Most Munster residents heeded the town officials' mandatory evacuation orders, leaving more than 1,000 homes dark and forcing homeowners to emergency shelters.

"The basement is totally full. The recreation room, which is four levels up, four steps up, is up to about here and still coming in" said evacuated resident Eva Mintz.

Officials say it is too early to assess the damage, but the bulk of the affected area is along the northwest side along the river, primarily because a project to raise levee walls was incomplete.

Once the next two phases of the project are completed over what we estimate to be the next 18-24 months, then this occurrence would be greatly reduced or completely eliminated as far as the amount of serious flooding on this side of the river," said Jim Mandon, Munster town engineer.

The Little Calumet River has finally crested but the floodwaters are not receding fast enough in Munster, Indiana, where a mandatory evacuation is in place for an entire neighborhood south of I-80/94 along Calumet Avenue.

Town Councilman David Nellans says about 1,000 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders and another 700 residents are being urged to evacuate. But even with entire streets underwater, officials are having a hard time convincing some residents that they have to go.

"We have quite a few people out there who do not want to leave their houses, so I mean, we offer the assistance that we can and if they want to stay, they stayed," said Det. Brian Schnick, Indiana State Police.

Most of those who evacuated found places to stay. There are several families sheltered at the local high school.

"My mom and my father-in-law attempted to get there and we could not get north of the river," said Theresa Buell, evacuee.

"We're about three, four homes away from the river, just south of the river, so we were hit pretty bad," said Mark Fus, evacuee.

Many businesses in Calumet Center are also underwater with no prospect of opening at any time soon.

"We probably put 10 to 15 trucks of sandbags in the hole. We hope that it didn't undermine the footings to the buildings. If that happens, the buildings will be a complete loss," said Roy Balcerak, business owner.

About 20 patients were evacuated from the Munster Nursing Home early Monday morning. Employees had to be taken to the home by boat so they could complete the process of getting everyone out.

"I'm assuming some of us will split up and help the other facilities take care of patients that are already there, but we our priority is to get the 19 patients out of the facility," said Nina Akers, nursing home employee.


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