Flash flooding caused by up to 9 inches of rainfall over a 3 hour period Saturday afternoon swept through eastern Jefferson and western Switzerland counties, resulting in damaged roadways and bridges, power outages, evacuations and the death of 61-year-old Manville woman.
With heavy rain falling over a wide area, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency issued a flood advisory at 4:31 p.m. on Saturday and some residents on Brushy Fork Creek began evacuating soon after with water quickly rising.
In the end, all occupants made it out safely except for 61-year-old Linda Lee Wood, of the 8000 block of East Brushy Fork Road. An attempt was apparently made to get Wood to evacuate but she refused and when flood waters swept through her residence on the banks of Brushy Fork Creek she died after being carried several miles downstream by the water.
According to Jefferson County Coroner Rodney Nay, Wood was apparently urged to leave her home at 4:25 p.m., but refused, possibly intimidated by a barking dog. Wood’s body was found Sunday morning seven miles downstream under a bridge on East Prong Road.
Nay said the home Wood shared with her husband, Anthony Clyde Wood, was totally destroyed by the rapid water. Anthony Wood was not home at the time of the storm.
“They lost everything. Nothing at all” was left, Nay said.
Residents along Brushy Fork Creek said the flooding was the worst they have ever seen. Trees were uprooted, utility poles were mowed down, pavement was lifted from the roadway, cars were washed down the creek and bridges were washed out and/or clogged with debris.
Family members of Gary Imel, 7567 Brushy Fork Road, said a large propane tank came washing down the creek and hit the bridge just outside his home, later breaking away only to collide with a large tree at one point the valve of the take broke and a large plume of propane shot up through the tree causing a huge white cloud and the strong odor of gas for several hours.
Imel’s granddaughter, Taylor Imel, was not home at the time of the flooding but she said the incident was described as a pretty scary — both the flooding and the leaking propane. While surveying the damage, she said she could not believe all the damage considering the creek is where she swim in the summer.
Wayne Lewis grew up along Brushy Fork Road. On Sunday afternoon he was picking tomatoes from his garden just across the road from where a maroon Jeep Liberty sat on its side lodged in downed trees after being washed down the creek. Lewis now lives near Manville but was born and raised in a house near the garden, and he hasn’t seen flooding do so much damage in the area in his 69 years.
“I’ve seen it bad, but not this bad,” he said. “It was pretty devastating.”
Aaron Smith, who lives nearby on Dow Ridge Road, said the damage he witnessed on his way home from work at Kentucky Utilities in Ghent, Kentucky — vehicles smashed along the creek, homes damaged and tons of debris — was totally unexpected. “They probably didn’t get a quarter-inch (of rain) in Ghent,” Smith said. “I knew it was raining over here, but didn’t know this was going on.”
Troy Morgan Emergency Management Agency Director for Jefferson County said the damage along Brushy Fork Creek was actually from heavy rainfall in northern Switzerland County.
“It’s not our rain that did it,” he said. “We had three inches or so” but Switzerland County got in excess of nine inches in that short amount of time. “That’s where it came from and that sent the rainwater down the Brushy Fork Creek.”
Morgan said an initial assessment along East Brushy Fork Road revealed that 20 addresses were involved in the flooding with two homes destroyed and three others sustaining minor damage. He said County Commissioners filed a disaster declaration on Sunday, the first step in the process towards seeking federal assistance to help pay for the damage.
Morgan was back at the scene Monday with Indiana’s director of Homeland Security, to tour the area with the Commissioners and further assess the damage. He said most residents in the area should now have electricity but there are some that do not have water due to a water main break that must be repaired by the Canaan Water Department. He said the county highway department is working diligently to clear debris and get roads as passable as possible.
Tom Moore, Emergency Management Agency director for Switzerland County, said he is continuing to assess property damage and damage to roads and bridges there. He said there are several structures with damage, and one that was completely destroyed.
“We had no loss of life and no one missing,” Moore noted.
The State Road 250 bridge over Indian Creek near Pleasant and Bennington was badly damaged and for a county that is all ready wracked with detours due to numerous bridge repair and replacement projects, the hardship will be felt.
On Monday morning, the Jefferson County Highway Department announced three roads closed due to bridges being damaged — Bridge 103 on Brushy Fork Road between the 7500 block of Brushy Fork Road and McCarty Hill Road, Bridge 154 on Dow Ridge Road between Brushy Fork Road and Tate Ridge Road and Bridge 53 on Brushy Fork Road Between Sugan Hollow Road and Tate Ridge Road. All will be closed for an indefinite period of time.
In a press release, the Jefferson County Highway Department stated that several county road are passable but are still in need of more work and crews will be out in the upcoming days working to get roads back in order.
Morgan asked that residents avoid the East Brushy Fork Road area. “There are utilities, electricians, water, highway and more out there” doing work, and that as people go out there they get in the way of that getting done.
Morgan said all of the bridges in the area will need to be inspected, even those that may outwardly appear OK.
Responding agencies in Jefferson County included the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana Conservation Office Jefferson County Highway Department, Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, Jefferson County Emergency Communications, Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency, and the fire departments from Canaan and Madison.
Funeral arrangements for Linda Lee Wood will be announced by the Morgan & Nay Funeral Centres of Madison and Hanover, www.morgan-nay.com.