Lake Station residents on Monday night packed City Hall to question officials about the disaster declaration for the community, how and where to get help and offered dozens of stories about the water in their basements and around their homes, along with the raw sewage damaging their property.
Lake Station officials hosted the meeting to get a better picture of community needs following the heavy flooding in the city.
Doug and Cindy Robb, who live on a 6-acre farm on Clay Street, had 6 feet of water in their basement and several other feet of water on their land. Cindy Robb said they had planned to go out of town but learned from city officials several members of the community would be evacuated due to the predictions of flooding.
She said they went to a hotel and were not at the farm when it flooded.
"On the 16th, we took a boat out to the house to get clothes and some of the food out of the house," she said. "We've been in the house but we haven't gotten any estimates on the damage. There is now about 4 feet of water in the basement."
Cindy Robb said there are about six other neighbors near them, all members of the Robb family, who also suffered floodwater damage.
She said the couple came to the meeting to find out what services city and county officials would be able to offer residents.
Melissa and Archie Taylor, who live in Gary, bought a home in Lake Station and were remodeling it for themselves.
Showing pictures of the ranch-style home, the couple said much of the work they had put into the house has been destroyed by the water. They had installed gas lines, new plumbing and a new fence. Melissa Taylor said the house is on Wyoming Street right across the street from where the levee will be built to protect residents from floodwaters.
"The water is 2 feet high inside the house," she said. "Until a house is 60 percent finished, you can't insure it so we had no insurance on it. We're just hoping we can get some assistance with the money we've already spent on the gas line, the plumbing and the fence got knocked down by the water. We're not trying to get rich. We just want to be able to fix the stuff that was destroyed."
Terra Patterson, her fiance and four of her five children are staying at a hotel following the flooding. She and her family had just moved into the house in June.
"My fiance got stuck in there the day that it started flooding. They had to go in there and get him out," she said. "It's bad. We lost quite a bit in the basement. Most of the kids' clothes were down there because I was getting ready to do laundry. All of their clothes were floating all over the basement. The washer and dryer are full of water now."
She thought the meeting was very beneficial, and city and county leaders had tons of valuable information for residents.
Patterson said Lake Station Mayor Chris Anderson has been on hand to assist and provide information to families, along with fire officials and others who helped get people to safety. NIPSCO came right away and turned off power so there would not be any issues, Patterson said.
"It's nice to still be able to have a home to come back to," she said. "We're going to have to take some drywall out and replace stuff but it's better than being homeless altogether.
"From here, we'll just begin the cleanup process. It's material. At the end of the day, my kids are healthy and they're safe. Some of that stuff, we may not have needed anyway. This will help me do my spring cleaning," she said.
Lake Station, county officials and others urged residents to document the damage, take pictures and keep all receipts.
Donated items such as food, water, hygiene products, cleaning supplies and clothing were available to families after the meeting.
The estimated number of homes affected by flooding stood at 75, but could increase as the city learns of additional homes that had water in basements but weren't necessarily surrounded by water, Anderson said earlier.
About 35 homes in the Lake Station area remained without natural gas service Monday, spokeswoman Karen McCoy said.
Meetings in Schneider, Shelby planned
Paul Channell, chief of training for the Schneider Volunteer Fire Department, said Schneider and Shelby officials are working with Lake County Commissioner Jerry Tippy to schedule informational meetings for residents affected by the floods. Details regarding those meetings should be available in the coming days.
“People are in good spirits, but they’ve been through a lot in the past few days,” Channell said of several Schneider-area homeowners whose homes flooded near the Kankakee River. “It’s a 100-year flood, and we’re feeling the sting of it down here. The Fire Department stands ready to help anyone who continues to need assistance.”
Channell said the water is receding significantly from some of the most affected areas, which saw homes completely surrounded by water late last week.
Disaster declaration to help
Anderson said he was happy to see Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb declared an emergency for 11 counties because of flooding, including Lake County. That means Lake Station might be able to tap into some federal money to repair some of the damage, he said.
The Calumet Township trustee's office will be offering assistance, he said.
The floodwaters in Lake Station receded significantly over the weekend, and most residents were able to return to their homes and assess damage, he said.
Homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofit organizations with uninsured damage caused by severe storms and flooding starting on or after Feb. 15 can report damage at bit.ly/2018rainfall.
If the Federal Emergency Management Agency gets involved, its employees will need to physically inspect damage. Residents who get rid of damaged property could jeopardize any possible benefits, but officials urged them to document and take pictures if they did get rid of damaged property.
Watching and waiting along the Kankakee
Communities along the Kankakee River continued to watch and wait Monday.
"We're stable for now," said Jody Melton, executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission. "We're not looking forward to rain Thursday."
Water that has spilled into farm fields eventually will return to the river, in part because frozen ground cannot absorb the water and cold temperatures prevent evaporation, he said.
The river crested in Shelby at 13.04 feet at 7:45 p.m, but was expected to remain at its previous record high of 13 feet until at least Saturday, according to the weather service.
Rain was expected to begin late Wednesday and continue through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Lake County Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. asked Sunday that all nonessential pumping within the Kankakee River watershed in Lake County be delayed until the river recedes as a precaution.
The request was aimed at farmers, who sometime pump excess water out of their fields. Agricultural land has not yet been seeded, so standing water isn't likely to cause damage, he said.
The Kankakee River watershed generally is located south of a line that runs east from Cedar Lake, he said.
Parts of Kankakee still rising
Emerson said he was out all weekend checking on levees and working with homeowners trying to pump out water. County officials planned to continue to shore up levees where they could, he said.
"We're just going to continue to monitor it," he said. "We're all concerned about the rain."
Melton said Shelby residents will be able to benefit from the governor's emergency declaration, which included Lake County. Jasper County also sustained flood damage along the Iroquois River and could be included later, he said.
Water continued to run into farm fields near a levee break in Jasper County near Ramsey's Landing, where the now-shuttered Marti's Place stands.
"All of that is running into farm fields and going south," Melton said.
The water won't affect DeMotte, because of ditches in the area.
NIPSCO shut off gas service to about 26 homes along Ramsey Road, McCoy said.
The Kankakee at Kouts was at 14.45 feet Monday at 9 p.m. and was expected to crest at 14.9 feet early Wednesday. The previous record high at Kouts — set in 1982 — was 14.52 feet.
LaPorte County issued an alert Monday afternoon that said some warning signs and sandbags had been removed without permission. The county urged drivers to turn around if they encounter flooded roads.
Gallery: Flooding in Northwest Indiana