By Martha Stoelting
Some residents of the local lakes and river areas have felt a kinship to the Johnny Cash song “Five Feet High and Risin’” during the past week. While Goshen, Elkhart, Plymouth and parts of Warsaw received the major portion of media coverage, the rivers, lakes and streams of Tippecanoe, Van Buren and Turkey Creek townships took on a fair share of rising water.
It came from intense rainfall, melting snow and ice and the ground being frozen and unable to absorb much moisture.
Many neighborhoods will have flood stories to tell in the future. The homes below the dam on Webster Lake between the Tippecanoe River and the old mill race have been inundated in North Webster. A channel on Lake Wawasee has merged with another. Parts of Sechrist Lake on the Barbee chain is over the seawall and into some homes while Pie Eyed Petey’s patio on Lake Tippecanoe has become a swimming pool. Turkey Creek in Milford is out of its banks.
Not all the usual low lying areas that flood have been affected, but many cannot remember the water levels being any higher at their properties than they are currently. Property owners not in the area may want to call someone to check on their property.
The Watershed Foundation, headquartered in North Webster, has reported the lakes and rivers are now at the 100-year flood stage. Water levels in the Tippecanoe River watershed were expected to peak Feb. 26 and 27. The Tippecanoe River at Oswego is at the fifth highest level, 8.77 feet, since 1943.
TWF noted, “Homeowners, renters, businesses and private non-profit organizations that sustained uninsured damage caused by severe storms and flooding starting on or after Thursday, Feb. 15, can report damage online, www.tinyurl.com/GovDamage. This information is used for damage assessment purposes only and is part of the state of Indiana’s process to determine if damage is sufficient enough to request a disaster declaration from the president.
“Flooding can pose a health risk to humans and animals. Residents of local lakes and other rural areas who do not have a sewer system need to be aware that if your household uses a typical septic system, heavy rains and floods can halt its ability to treat wastewater from your home.
“When flood waters pond over the septic drain field, there is no place for wastewater from the household plumbing to drain because the drain field and soil beneath are saturated. When septic drain fields are saturated, contaminants from wastewater can enter and pollute ground water and a well as well as lakes and other surface waters.”
Septic First Aid suggests rerouting water from the gutters away from the septic drain field. Do not use the dishwasher or garbage disposal. Reduce the number of showers and baths. Turn off your water softener. Wash clothes at the laundromat. Use bottled water for drinking.
If water is over the well, contact the Kosciusko County Health Department at (574) 372-2349 or (574) 457-5757 for well testing. Use an alternate drinking water source until water supply can be tested and disinfected.
Sand and bags are available at the south end of North Webster Community Center parking lot, 301 N. Main St., and the Kosciusko County Highway Department, 2936 E. Old Road 30, Warsaw.