One by one, properties were bulldozed from the neighborhood between Carter and Murden streets in downtown Kokomo, physically erasing evidence of residential flooding in an area long prone to it.
Removing homes along Park Avenue, near Waterworks Park and other spots around the city and beyond is the most noticeable change to the landscape in the city's flood mitigation effort thus far.
The city has spent more than $600,000 in the past year purchasing and tearing down 53 properties alongside Wildcat Creek. A heavy concentration of that effort has been along Carter and Murden streets, between Apperson Way and Union Street, where homes have long been prone to devastating flooding.
The city also is in the process of acquiring an additional 55 flood-damaged properties for $500 apiece, those located near the old Continental Steel Superfund site, after they were purchased in a special commissioners’ tax certificate sale in December.
These purchases are the most visible aspects of the city’s flood mitigation plan, which has been in the works since a April 19, 2013, flood destroyed seven homes and caused major damage to another 165 in Howard County. On that day, the Wildcat Creek reached its highest crest on record at 18.69 feet.
"It was evident from the beginning that it was not a great place for residential housing,” city special projects manager David Tharp said, referring to the Carter-Murden neighborhood after going door to door with members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the days following the flood. “It’s the first and worst of what gets hit. Even though we don’t know what the whole picture will look like [following mitigation], you know that’s an area that needs to change its use."
Changing the use of land is essentially what flood mitigation is all about, Tharp said. So while the beginning stages of mitigation present the most obvious fixes to flooding, the rest of the process isn't quite as fluid.