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Holcomb adds Wabash County to emergency declaration

FLOOD: Properties along the Eel River in North Manchester experienced moderate flooding last month. State authorities are now trying to assess the damage.

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday evening issued a disaster emergency declaration for Wabash County, bringing the total number of counties under an emergency disaster declaration to 31.

The declaration comes after the Wabash County Board of Commissioners on Monday made their local emergency disaster declaration. These declarations are in response to heavy rainfall that occurred from February 19-22.

The northern portion of the county received the brunt of the rain: the northern-most gage indicated more than 3 inches of rain during those dates, while the southern half of the county received about 2 inches, according to the National Weather Service of Northern Indiana. Moderate flooding was recorded along the Eel River, which peaked at 14.38 feet on February 21.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is currently working to assess damage across the state. There are no damage totals yet for Wabash County or the state, but as the number of counties under Holcomb’s executive order continues to grow, the State is working to locate problem areas.

“That is why we are asking people to report uninsured damage so that we can get an idea of where those pockets of damage are located, so we can go out and assess that damage and see how much will need to be repaired in the state,” Joint Information Center staff member Amber Kent said.

Home and business owners can report any uninsured damages through a survey that can be found on the Indiana Department of Homeland Secruity’s homepage.

Those reporting uninsured damage will be asked to fill out the date of when the damage occurred, the type of damage and provide any insurance they have, as well as contact information and an indication of whether immediate assistance is needed.

People who have insured damages are advised to take photographs of the incident and contact their insurance as soon as possible, Kent said.

The disaster relif process begins with a county making a local declaration when local officials determine there are not enough resources available to provide adequate relief. At that point, the governor must make a declaration in order to enact the State’s emergency plan.

Kent said other counties received declarations from Holcomb earlier because the department must go through the chain of command.

The Wabash County Board of Commissioners decided to declare an emergency after flooding damaged a bridge near LaFontaine. Rough estimates by Wabash County Highway Department Superintendent John Martin suggest repairs may cost $800,000.

“Each county is very, very different, and each county has different resources and preparedness levels. So, it’s really a very individual choice when they decide to make that declaration,” Kent said.

If the State decides it cannot provide effective relief, the governor can request aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While the Governor’s Office waits to collect damage data, it has begun offering relief through the State’s emergency plan.

“Sandbags. We’ve sent so many sandbags in the last few weeks,” Kent said.

Kent said IDHS didn’t just dispense sandbags, the department also sent office workers to help counties finish paperwork documenting damages.

IDHS officials advise residents to stay out of homes that have standing water in them, until the water fully recedes. Before entering a home after the flood, check for downed power lines, damaged gas lines (indicated by a hissing noise) and foundation cracks, according to the IDHS website.

When returning after the water has receded, make sure the electricity to the house is off, IDHS recommends. Dry any electrical fixtures before turning the electricity back on. Anything that was wet for more than two days should be removed because mold could begin forming.

The IDHS adds that bleach and water can kill off mold, but wet ceiling tiles, paper products, baseboards, drywall and insulation can never be salvaged after a flood. Carpets can be salvaged by wet vacuuming, shampooing and drying.

Mold can cause mild to severe health consequences from a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing and skin irritation to difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chronic lunch diseases and infections, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.