By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
Even for engineers, it’s hard to figure out why water goes where it goes with any measure of accuracy.
But the weekend storms left Kokomo in surprisingly good shape, with stormwater largely confined to the usual floodplains and only one temporary road closure in the city, along West Markland Avenue.
City engineer Carey Stranahan said the relatively long duration of the storm may have helped matters, with rain starting early Saturday and picking up in intensity that evening into Sunday.
Howard County saw about 2 inches of rain as the brunt of the storm tracked mostly south and east of Kokomo, according to National Weather Service charts. Parts of Hamilton County saw 3.5 inches or more, with the Cicero Creek flooding heavily as of Monday morning.
The Wildcat Creek crested in the pre-dawn hours Monday at 3 feet above flood stage, and the stream gauge at Jerome showed a crest several hours earlier.
The highest recorded stream height in Kokomo, set July 5, 2003, was almost 8 feet above flood stage. The weekend’s crest ranked 13th on the highest recorded Wildcat stream heights since 1955, according to the weather service.
A work site flooded at the under-construction Bent Creek subdivision along Sycamore, east of U.S. 31, but property damage due to flooding was limited. The Berkley Meadows subdivision, where city contractors expanded storm sewer capacity in the wake of a very localized flood a few years back, made it through the storm unscathed.
“For the most part, if the duration of the storm is longer than 12 hours, it’s going to cause more creek flooding,” Stranahan said Monday. “If the duration is shorter than 12 hours, that’s when your problems make their way up [into the storm sewers], and you’d have problems in subdivisions.”
The storm claimed one victim, however, when Northwestern graduate Blake Taylor, a 19-year-old Ball State University student, died after his car overturned into roadside flood waters along Ind. 26, east of Fairmount.
County highway superintendent Ted Cain said drivers had to be careful near the bridge at 300 East near Sycamore, but otherwise flooding on county roads was limited to spots of sheet water on some of the roads.
“It’s not bad at all. I don’t think we have anything we couldn’t get through,” Cain said.
Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said that apart from the warning barricades placed along Ind. 26 east of Fairmount, where the road was closed for part of Sunday, there were no closures near Kokomo.
Stranahan said he hoped the removal of two dams from the Wildcat as it travels through Kokomo may have helped. In the years since the 2003 flood, the Crystal Street dam and another “lowhead” dam near the bridge at Markland and Park avenues have been removed, increasing the stream’s flood storage.
This summer, city officials intend to remove the next-to-last navigation barrier in Kokomo’s stretch of the Wildcat, the McCann Street dam, which blocks about two-thirds of the stream’s width near Foster Park, Stranahan said.
The last dam standing after the McCann Street dam is gone will be the dam at the Indiana-American Water Co.’s Kokomo works, and there are no plans to remove that structure. East of Kokomo, the water company worked this fall to raise up part of the Kokomo Reservoir dam, so that the top of the entire structure is the same height. Company officials said that move should increase the amount of water the reservoir holds throughout the year.
Finally, well into eastern Howard County, state officials are hoping the removal of a massive logjam in the Wildcat near Jerome will help reduce flooding on that part of the stream.
Regardless of all of the work in the floodway, Stranahan said it would be hard to imagine another flood like the one in 2003, which caused millions in property damage.
“2003 was an anomaly; it hit everywhere from top to bottom,” he said.
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org