Heavy rainfall leads to flash flood warnings, road closings

5:30 a.m. UPDATE: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has canceled classes today due to flooding.


A deluge of rainfall that came in torrents caused flash flood warnings in Bartholomew County and a growing list of road closings with homes and businesses surrounded by high water.

A Columbus independent living community moved about 60 residents out of the building Thursday afternoon because a nearby apartment building retention pond and its overflow were full, with rivulets of water breaking through the soil.

Officials at GreenTree at Westwood Senior Living, 4895 Pine Ridge Drive, on Columbus’ west side, were working with family members Thursday afternoon to have residents relocated as a precautionary move, said Vicky Colson, the facility’s executive director.

Officials at neighboring Westwood Pine Apartments, to the east of Greentree, were attempting to find someone to pump out the retention pond, which was full, with water also filling a 12-foot high overflow ditch where the soil appeared to be giving way, Columbus firefighters said.

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The Columbus Fire Department told facility officials that if the overflow would break through the dirt, it could flood the facility, Colson said.

Columbus Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Wilson said firefighters found water close to Greentree as of about 5 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters began cleaning out drains to get some of the water away from the building.

If the overflow ditch did breach, the water would head toward the building, but it would also flow out into the parking lot and into the facility’s storm sewers, Wilson said, as the parking area is lower than Greentree’s building.

Columbus Department of Public Works workers went to the GreenTree at 6 p.m. Thursday with a pump to try to drain some of the water in order to determine if blocked drains were causing the problems. City employees said it might take several hours to determine if the drains were the issue, or if the city needed to attempt begin draining the retention pond as a safety precaution.

Adding to today’s flooding worries is more weather misery, with temperatures expected to plummet early today into the teens, and the possibility of sub-zero wind chills. A wind advisory is in effect until 7 a.m. today, with wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Bartholomew County Emergency Management was adding to a growing list of road closings and high water notifications throughout the day Thursday and into today, while keeping a wary eye on the falling temperatures.

“One of two things can happen when the temperatures go down,” said Bartholomew County Emergency Management Director Shannan Hinton. “It can either freeze, and we will have ice to deal with, or it will freeze dry, which means the water will not ice over, but there will still be some slick spots.”

No matter where drivers are headed today, they face high water or road closed signs, Hinton said.

Hinton announced Bartholomew County was under a travel Advisory as of 5 p.m. Thursday, advising caution when traveling. County highway crews were attempting to keep up with placing high water signs around the county but were close to running out of signs on Thursday night, she said. Even though the county placed an Advisory, which allows for travel with caution, Hinton said she was asking motorists to travel only if necessary.

Thursday’s rainfall, which was prefaced by one or two severe thunderstorm warnings, resulted in about an inch of rain falling from morning to the early afternoon, in addition to an inch that had already fallen the day before.

“It’s rained a lot, and the high water road closings are coming in so fast, as soon as I send one out, three more come in,” Hinton said Thursday afternoon.

Flood warnings were in effect for Haw Creek near Clifford, the Driftwood River near Edinburgh, and the Flat Rock and East Fork White rivers near Columbus.

Most of the areas that normally flood have high water, she said. There are other areas that are experiencing some high water that normally don’t, and water was receding in those areas quickly, she said.

Hinton said she was fairly confident that since County Road 800S was closed due to high water on Thursday, the domino effect was in play and Southern Crossing and State Road 11 in Garden City would mostly likely be blocked by high water for the morning commute today.

State Road 46 through Columbus was not expected to flood, she said. However, west of Bartholomew County, in Brown County, the highway was closed heading toward Nashville on Thursday, Hinton said. Several water rescues were conducted in the area, including one involving a person entering high water past barricades in Bartholomew County and several in Brown County.

Hinton repeated a warning that emergency management had issued on social media advising drivers not to proceed into high water or to drive around “road closed” signs for flooding.

“Hopefully, people will get the message,” she said. “It’s dangerous. Don’t drive around the high water signs.”

During the heavy rainfall on Thursday, motorists were also dealing with challenging conditions on Interstate 65 and other major roadways due to rainfall collecting on the road surface.

A semi jack-knifed in the southbound lanes of I-65 near the 73 mile marker at about 1:50 p.m. Thursday, closing the southbound lanes of the interstate for more than an hour, police said.

Traffic was diverted on to southbound U.S. 31 at the 76 mile marker, and the area was heavily congested with traffic for most of the afternoon, police said.

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Bartholomew County has listed the following road closings due to high water:

  • County Road 400N between River Road and U.S. 31
  • County Road 930S between 300W and 400W
  • County Road 800S between State Road 11 and U.S. 31
  • Northgate Drive at U.S. 31
  • County Road 300S between County Road 525E and 600E
  • County Road 930S at State Road 58
  • Heritage Heights/Henry Lakes: Fremont Drive and Henry Lakes Boulevard is flooded. Tyler Drive is the only access.
  • Marr Road between 25th Street and National Road (behind Target)
  • County Road 800N and County Road 100 West
  • State Road 58 and West County Road 700S

For an updated list, visit therepublic.com.

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Haw Creek

A flood warning for Haw Creek near Clifford was in effect until late Thursday, with the river at 13.2 feet — flood stage is 12 feet.

When Haw Creek is this high, flooding may occur on Rocky Ford Road west of Marr road and the People Trail west of Marr Road.

Flat Rock River

The flood warning for the Flat Rock in Columbus is continuing through Saturday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon, the river was at 10.6 feet, with flood stage at 11 feet. The river was projected to rise to nearly 13.2 feet this afternoon and fall below flood stage on Saturday. The river can flood Noblitt Park, County Road 400N and Owens Bend Park when at flood stage.

East Fork White River

A flood warning for the East Fork White River in Columbus continues until Sunday afternoon. the river was at 7.6 feet on Thursday with flood stage at 9 feet. The river was expected to rise to nearly 12.4 feet by this afternoon, then falling below flood stage by late Saturday night. Forecasted flooding would be State Road 11 north of County Road 200S.

Driftwood River

The Driftwood River near Edinburgh is under a flood warning until Monday, as the river was at 12.3 feet on Thursday, with flood stage at 11 feet. The Driftwood is anticipated to rise to nearly 15.1 feet by late tonight and then fall below flood stage by Sunday night.

— Source: Bartholomew County Emergency Management