Massive and historic flooding struck the central and southern portion of Wabash River Valley in eastern Illinois and central Indiana in June 2008. In Indiana alone over 25,000 people were affected by flood waters and total flood damage exceeded 1 billion dollars. This was the largest agricultural disaster to strike Indiana, affecting 8% of the state’s agricultural land. The Great Flood of June 2008 was one Indiana’s costliest natural disasters.
This great flood began to unfold as the cool weather of May turned very warm and humid at the end of May. Heavy rainfall from severe weather on the evening of May 30 caused lowland flooding along portions of the Wabash River in western Indiana and moistened the ground in many areas of central Indiana. Another severe weather event on the 3rd of June caused more rain to fall across Central Indiana. These rains would just set the stage for what was about to happen.
Yet another severe weather system took aim on eastern Illinois and central Indiana on the evening of the 6th. A nearly stationary boundary across central Indiana allowed for the continued “training”, that is movement over the same area, of thunderstorms nearly all night. This dropped rain of 3 to 11 inches across a large area in Indiana.
The results of this night of heavy rain were immediate and extreme. Devastating flash floods and then river floods developed shortly after the rain fell. The City of Columbus and the town of Paragon were cut off from the outside world. The communities of Terre Haute, Brazil, Franklin, Edinburgh, Martinsville, Spencer and the southern portion of Indianapolis were nearly immobilized for a time. Significant and record breaking floods farther downstream on the Wabash and White Rivers occurred as the flood crest moved south. Only through the heroic efforts of sandbaggers did several small towns along the river’s banks survive in south central Indiana. Some levees did not fare as well, and one failure near Smother’s Creek in Daviess County flooded 20,000 acres of agricultural land.
Flooding damaged at least 65 Indiana State Roads. Two spectacular wash outs included SR 57 north of Newberry and SR 58 west of Elnora. Huge blow holes were formed and a lake remained where once a road had been. Haw Creek flooded the basement of the Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus. The emergency room in Franklin flooded near the local police station. Water and gas line were washed out in west central Indiana as a result of the unprecedented local flooding. Mudslides and several dam failures occurred in Owen, Morgan, and Johnson counties. Rail lines were washed out in Jackson and Greene Counties. The damage was extensive. While the aftermath was extreme, it was only through the actions of dedicated communities that the destruction was not worse.
2013 is also the 100th anniversary of the Greatest Natural Disaster to ever strike the States of Indiana and Ohio...the March 1913 Easter Flood. Click here for information about this flood.