After this week’s heavy rains and flooding in Bartholomew County, officials are considering the installation of a river gauge that would measure rising waters and alert officials in advance of a possible flood.
The solar-powered gauge would send a message to the Indianapolis office of the US Geological Survey via satellite. In the case of a significant rise in water, the USGS office could alert Bartholomew County officials approximately four to six hours before a major flood.
The county already has two gauges-one on Clifty Creek and the other on the White River’s East Fork, south of Columbus. Placing a new one a couple miles south of the town of Hope — near the junction of Haw Creek and its tributary, Little Haw Creek — would give the county a head start on evacuation.
County Commissioner Carl Leinhoop says the move would be especially beneficial in the case of a late-night flood.
“If it would have happened during the night, we were confident that we would have had much much higher loss of life. People would have driven into deep water before they’d ever known they were in such a pickle,” Leinhoop said.
Bartholomew County Emergency Management Director Dennis Moats says leaders would need to be notified before water gets into neighborhoods.
“The big thing is really to try and protect the people. We really need time to work with the citizens to try and get them out of there before the waters are into the neighborhoods,” Moats said.
“If the hospital and Cummins Engine Company would have had four hours notice, it would give businesses the opportunity to move hundreds of thousands of inventory in a short period of time,” Leinhoop said.
The county has a gauge in the the 1980s, but it was removed due to budget cuts. Modern gauges cost $16,000 to 18,000 a year to maintain. Lienhoop says the federal government will cover 40 to 50 percent of the cost of installing the new gauge. The rest will be shared by the city, county and state governments, as well as Bartholomew County Hospital.