HAMMOND | In September 2008, Interstate 80/94 running through Lake County was closed for a week as a result of flooding when the Little Calumet River overflowed an unfinished levee.
The loss of commerce was staggering — more than $88 million in losses, according to William Baker, chairman of the current Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.
For 4½ overnight hours Wednesday and Thursday, the west side of Kennedy Avenue and two of the interchanges with I-80/94 (Borman Expressway) will again be closed in Hammond and Highland — this time for a flood-fighting drill to prevent any repeat of that 2008 disaster.
Among those at the drill will be several LCRBDC officials, INDOT personnel, Army Corps of Engineers personnel along with emergency and public works personnel from Hammond and Highland.
Organized by LCRBDC Executive Director Dan Repay and others, the drill begins at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when crews from the Indiana Department of Transportation arrive along Kennedy Avenue in Hammond and Highland to close off the road.
By 11 p.m., the entire stretch of west Kennedy Avenue will be closed to all traffic from the Hessville McDonald’s south past the expressway west and eastbound interchanges to beyond the Little Calumet River in Highland.
The three-hour drill will permit personnel to practice putting up flood barriers in real time at a critical location, he said.
“It’s far better to practice this now than to try to do it in three hours during a downpour that leads to flooding,” Repay said.
Repay said he expects the drill to be complete by 3 a.m. Thursday.
Some monthly drills are table-top exercises to see if all the planning can be done in advance. Other exercises by various communities are held off-site because closing roads isn’t feasible.
That’s what Munster did earlier this month, he said. The emergency responders and public works employees practiced inflating the town’s flood-fighting bladder system inside the large public works facility.
“Closing Calumet Avenue just wasn’t an option,” Repay said.
Another live emergency drill is set for April 12 in Gary along Harrison Street in conjunction with Indiana University Northwest, he said. This practice will take place during daytime.
“In the next four weeks, every community along the Little Calumet will practice emergency flood-fighting procedures,” Repay said.