MUNSTER | Town leaders said once the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completes the Little Calumet River project in Munster, flooding in the community will be much reduced.
Munster Town Manager Thomas DeGiulio said Monday the levee was breached but did not collapse. He said water was 5 feet over the flood stage of 12 feet Sunday, causing water to overflow the bank.
Most of the area that flooded is in the area of the Little Calumet River project that has yet to be completed, said Munster Town Engineer Jim Mandon.
"This flooding emphasizes just how important that project is to the community," he said.
The project calls for constructing higher and stronger earthen levees and floodwalls and additional pumping stations. It should be completed in 18 to 24 months, said Dan Gardner, executive director of the Little Calumet River Commission.
Gardner said the commission has to acquire rights of way and easements, especially in people's private backyards. The process has delayed the project.
Munster town leaders held a news conference Monday afternoon to talk about flooding in the community and their response to it.
Mandon said there is more flooding on the Munster side of the Little Calumet because there is a higher elevation on Hammond's side of the river.
Jim Knesek, Munster fire chief and director of operations, said town officials anticipated a large amount of water and sandbagged all day Saturday.
"The heavy amount of rain just overwhelmed us," he said.
Indiana State Police, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and emergency personnel from across the state helped Munster and nearby communities.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas said divers went out to pick up people who stayed in their homes Sunday night but were ready to get out Monday. Wojas said nearly 30 state police officers from Bremen and Lafayette were in Munster on Sunday and troopers from Fort Wayne and Peru helped Monday.
Munster Town Councilman Michael Mellon said 50 to 60 businesses and more than 2,000 households were affected by the heavy rain. About 450 residents were under a mandatory evacuation notice, he said.
Mellon said most people who were affected stayed with family and friends, and about 50 or 60 people are being housed at Munster High School, which was set up as an evacuation center. It could be several days before Munster residents will be able to return to their homes, he said.
At the high school, games such as Connect Four, Operation and Memory were set up on cafeteria tables as children played and their parents talked.
Gene and Gerry Lesko, who live on Madison Street, said they haven't seen anything like this flood in the 45 years they've lived in their home.
"I didn't sleep a wink Sunday night. I tossed and turned all night," Gerry Lesko said, adding she only had seepage in her basement.
James and Grace Thomas have lived in their White Oak Avenue home for 25 years.
"We were going to stay in our home, but they said it was mandatory that we leave. They've been very nice to us here, bringing blankets and food," she said.