Recent weather reminder of flood lessons

BARTHOLOMEW County residents received a refresher course in dealing with flooding conditions recently, albeit not anywhere nearly as serious as the flood of June 2008.

That high-water disaster claimed three lives and caused $500 million in damage in Columbus and the county.

However, the severe weather stretch from April 3 to 6 had residents on edge because heavy rainfall caused rivers to crest and many roads to flood and some of them to be closed. High water even caused Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to use eLearning Days — doing school work from home — for the first time instead of having students in their classrooms April 4 to 6. 

This reminder of the power of Mother Nature produced positive and negative takeaways worth examining.

On the positive side:

  • Bartholomew County Emergency Management teams huddled and communicated frequently and late into the night to provide up-to-date information in efforts to keep people safe. That included police officers going door-to-door in the middle of the night to warn residents about possible impacts of rising waters.
  • Emergency Management provided multiple weather updates as new conditions arrived, including tornado and flood watches and updates on road closings. Information was frequently shared with the media, to quickly inform their audiences.
  • In each case, BCSC made its eLearning decisions and communicated them the night before, giving parents needed time to make plans.
  • The Indiana Department of Transportation repaired a malfunctioning electronic control box that affected traffic lights at Jonathan Moore Pike and Interstate 65, doing so much faster than anticipated.

On the negative side:

  • Too many drivers foolishly and recklessly attempted to drive past high-water signs and barriers. That resulted in cars stalling and people needing first-responder assistance, some of them earning tickets for their foolishness.
  • Yet another glitch from the Everbridge alert system left subscribers furious when dozens of repeated notices were sent out in phone calls, text messages and emails within short periods of time. Everbridge apologized, but the Columbus-Bartholomew County notification system vendor should be put on notice for its poor execution.

Columbus and Bartholomew County have multiple rivers and creeks that can be problematic if flooding occurs. It was good to see the actions that resulted in positive impacts, as they demonstrate what residents expect in such conditions. However, the problems that persisted are reminders that a review of emergency operations is also in order. That will be important should weather conditions produce another event similar in magnitude to the one that hit a decade ago.