On Wednesday September 17, 2008, Eastern Heights Utilities of Bloomfield Indiana received the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) Public Service Award.
The Award is given to individuals or organizations who have assisted branches of the DOC, in this case the National Weather Service (NWS), in fulfilling its responsibility for public safety in weather services.
Members of the NWS office at Indianapolis went to Bloomfield to present the award in appreciation of the help the utility provided during the recent record river flood. That flood developed along portions of the White River, East Fork White River, and Eel River in central Indiana in early June. Eventually flood water inundated vast areas along these main rivers as it swept into southwest Indiana. In certain areas along these rivers, the magnitude and extent of destruction of this great flood is unprecedented in the memory of those alive today.
During the flood vital river gage readings were taken by the Eastern Heights crew, who are volunteer weather observers for the NWS Cooperative Weather Observation Program. Working out of their Bloomfield office the observers were unable to drive to the Elliston gage because of the flooding. Using an air boat to ply a dangerous expanse of powerful flood water full of unknown hazards, the observers obtained extremely valuable gage readings, crucial to the near-term forecast of river levels downstream.
Al Shipe, Service Hydrologist for the NWS, noted that warnings and statements issued during the flood were directly related to the reports received from Eastern Heights observers. The observing crew also relayed critical information on road closures and re-openings, flood damage to public infrastructure, and evacuation of Worthington residents from flooded areas.
Upon presenting the award, Dan McCarthy, Meteorologist-in-Charge of the NWS Indianapolis office stated, “The high level of citizen volunteer spirit displayed by these cooperative weather observers greatly assisted the NWS in fulfilling its mission of saving lives and protecting property, they are richly deserving of this special recognition.”