2013-04-23 / Front Page

Local Emergency Personnel Busy With Flood Water Rescue Efforts

Staff Report

The White River at Spencer was expected to crest at or near 23.07 feet on Sunday, resulting in countless area roads being impacted by flooding, many for the first time since the devastating flood of 2008.

Late last week, with flood waters still on the rise, Owen County emergency personnel responded to no fewer than half a dozen reports of motorists being stranded in their vehicles.

The first call came in Thursday at 11:45 p.m. on Fiscus Cemetery Road in Jefferson Township where members of the Coal City Community Volunteer Fire Department were able to rescue a female driver, identified as Mirah Miller, from her flood stranded Jeep Liberty.

“We had a terrible time trying to get to the place, everything was flooded so we had a lot of problems getting to people,” Owen County EMS Director Cris Lunsford said.

Just north of Jordan Village, a local woman was stuck in her car in flood waters on Owl Hollow Road and dialed 9-1-1 at 12:55 a.m. on Friday.

“The water was actually too shallow to launch the boats, so we had to walk out, put a life vest on her and walk her back to the truck,” Lunsford noted.

Conservation officers and members of the Poland Community Volunteer Fire Department later came to the aid of a male driver on State Road 42 in Jennings Township. Personnel were able to get Matthew Greenwell safely out of his flood stranded 2003 Ford Focus and to the Poland fire station at 1:30 a.m.

Two different motorists were helped out of their vehicles after driving into flood waters on State Road 42 just after 1:30 a.m.

Rescue members were called back to the same location at 4:00 a.m. where another driver had gotten stranded in flood waters, and Melinda Pierce was rescued from her vehicle in flood waters.

By late morning, Lunsford and another water rescue team member were on their way to the Reelsville area in Putnam County to assist with District 7 rescue efforts.

“We searched 20 houses and have taken three people out and three dogs; some people are wanting to stay in their homes, so they are staying,” Lunsford said Friday afternoon. “No injuries so far, so that’s great.”

For conservation officer Chris Springstun, the day began at 3:30 a.m. when he assisted in rescuing Ashley Johnson and Lance Morrision, both 26 and both of Cloverdale, after their vehicle stalled in high water on Jackie Dunn Road in Reelsville.

“Due to Officer Springstun being a member of the Indiana Conservation Officers dive team, he quickly donned his dry suit, swift water vest and grabbed a rope bag,” media contact Jet Quillen said. “With the assistance of a Putnam County deputy they were able to reach an area where officer Springstun was able to secure one end of the rope to a tree. He then entered the water and was able to swim to the vehicle and secure the other end of the rope to the trunk. This created a static line that Springstun used to remove both subjects from the water and back to safety.”

Springstun then made his way to aid firemen and EMTs in rescuing a stranded motorist, identified as 67-year-old John Wells of Poland, from a pickup truck that had been pushed onto its side from the force of fast moving water.

“Without the proper equipment and training these rescues would not have been possible,” Springstun said.

Officer Springstun noted that Putnam County deputies Mike Downing, Dwight Simmons and Chadwick Benge of the Floyd Township Fire Department also played key roles in the rescues. Other departments that assisted included the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and the Reelsville, Floyd Township, Greencastle, Madison, Bainbridge and Owen County VFDs.

DNR conservation officers and the Owen County Rescue Team urges drivers to remember the following tips:

•Never drive around barricades at water covered roadways.

•Never drive through flowing water.

•If you choose to abandon your vehicle, prepare for the fast moving water and seek higher ground immediately.

•Always travel with a fully charged cell phone.

•Maintain proper following distance (3 Second Rule). This needs to be increased in wet weather.

•Don’t follow large trucks or busses too closely. The spray created by their large tires reduces your vision. Take care when passing them as well; if you must pass, do so safely.

•Be more alert when driving in wet or slippery conditions. Watch out for brake lights in front of you.

•Turn your headlights on even in a light rain, or in gloomy, foggy or overcast conditions. Not only do they help you see the road, but they’ll help other drivers see you.

•Before it starts to rain, replace old or brittle wipers.

•Never drive beyond the limits of visibility. At night rainy roads become especially treacherous. The glare of oncoming lights, amplified by the rain on your windscreen, can cause temporary loss of visibility while substantially increasing driver fatigue. In rainy conditions pedestrians, livestock, and wildlife are extremely hard to spot and even harder to avoid.

•Never drive through moving water; your car can easily be swept off the road.

•When driving through a puddle of uncertain depth, go slow. If it’s deeper than the bottom of your doors, turn around and find another route. Deep water can cause serious damage to a modern car’s electrical system.

•If possible, stay off the road during heavy thunderstorms. Large flashes of lightning can temporarily blind and disorient drivers, and the accompanying high winds and heavy rain can create deadly driving conditions.

•Turn around, don’t drown.

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