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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Samantha Whitley talks on the phone Sunday as she tries to figure out what to do and where to go after being given 48 hours to remove everything from her townhouse apartment at Black Bear Creek Apartments.

Residents left high and dry by flooding

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Debris on tables outside the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, which reopened Sunday, and mud in the lots are the only signs of Saturday’s flooding.

Samantha Whitley spent her Sunday on the phone securing a U-Haul truck to help her move anything salvageable from her water-logged Black Bear Creek Apartment townhouse that had to be evacuated after a flash flood early Saturday.

After living in the townhouse for four months, she wasn’t expecting her lease to be up so soon. But with a red “X” spray painted on her door, she said she had 48 hours to vacate the premises that she shares with her three children.

“It’s very stressful,” Whitley said. “I’m just getting situated, just getting comfortable and trying to get things together.”

With 60 apartments that had to be vacated, the complex had 10 empty ones people could move into. Those displaced had their leases canceled and can return when repairs are done, according to Jerry Collins, president of Flaherty & Collins Properties, which owns the complex.

After more than five inches of rain fell late Friday and early Saturday, floods displaced residents and forced Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Science Central to close for the day. As floodwaters receded Sunday, employees were able to return to work with a small amount of damage to report.

Diane Current, zoo spokeswoman, said most of the flooding occurred in areas closest to the duck pond, including the Australian Adventure and the farm area. Although the zoo did not have power for about three hours Saturday, the staff was able to clean up as the water receded from inside the zoo and Franke Park. With animals safely placed in shelters, Current said the decision to close for an entire day is rare.

“Closed doors mean the loss of revenue of people coming to the zoo,” Current said. “We do know that we have people who come from great distances to come visit the zoo and we want people to come in and enjoy it, but, for the safety of the people and the animals, we just couldn’t open up.”

The log and train rides were still temporarily closed Sunday as staff members continued to clean up, but, overall, Current said that the zoo fared well thanks to the water pumps prepared for these types of emergencies. She said she was thrilled to see the zoo’s attendance return a day after the flooding.

“It was just a working effort all day. We still have a couple areas that we are mopping up,” Current said. “There wasn’t really any damage, things just got waterlogged.”

Richard Yates, Science Central’s Visitor Services supervisor, said it was forced to close Saturday as floodwater shut down Clinton Street. With the street open Sunday, Science Central reopened with no significant damage.

“We always have an idea the night before of whether a storm is coming, so we put up our floodgates and that kept most of the water out,” Yates said.

Rivers crested

Meteorologist Nick Greenawalt of the National Weather Service’s Northern Indiana office said that the city’s three rivers have crested and he doesn’t expect the area to receive more rain until Wednesday. Greenawalt said even though the weekend flooding is not normal, residents should be aware that frequent thunderstorms can cause flash floods during May, June and July.

“That’s what we have to look out for: When we get a lot of thunderstorm complexes they can create that flashy type of flooding, especially when we get a strong thunderstorm that brings a heavy rainfall,” Greenawalt said.

Black Bear Creek residents believe the source of flooding came from a culvert that carries water across Lake Avenue. With the flooding picking up debris, the pipe may have clogged, causing the water to quickly rise about 1 a.m. Saturday. Collins said Allen County’s Office of Homeland Security came out to investigate the property and notified him that the 60 lower-level units would have to be vacated because of highly contaminated floodwater. Collins said that Homeland Security’s investigations reported Category 3 water damage to the complex, which can be caused by high amounts of sewage entering a structure because of overflow or damage.

“We have to take out all the carpets and cut the dry wall up about one foot because the water in most units was about 6 to 8 inches,” Collins said. “What we’re doing now is letting the residents get their belongings out of the units, and we have given them a couple of days to do that. Once that’s done, we’re going to rip out all the carpets.”

Collins said the staff is helping the residents who could not get vacant apartments to find other places to stay with the help of the American Red Cross. Displaced residents will receive their full security deposits. Collins expects the work to take four to six weeks.

“They (residents) are welcome to come back, but they are not obliged to come back,” Collins said.

Whitley, who was on hold with her insurance company, said she plans to stay another night with a friend until she can get in touch with the Red Cross. She said she won’t be moving into her townhouse again.

“I’ll probably be moved in somewhere else by then,” Whitley said. “I got three kids to worry about.”