2 years later, flood still weighs on EMA director

Tegan Johnston/The Herald
Jasper firefighter Nick Nowakowski looked out onto flooded farm fields off of Indiana State road 162 between Jasper and Ferdinand.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

Two years ago, when storms dumped between 8 and 12 inches of rain on parts of Dubois County in one late-April night, Tammy Humbert didn’t sleep.

Basement walls collapsed. Foundations, crops and roads washed away. 

Homes were destroyed during the rain, which spanned from Friday, April 28, to Saturday, April 29, 2017. Families were displaced. Businesses incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Humbert, who is the county’s emergency management agency’s director, still wishes more could have been done to help in the aftermath.

When she thinks back on it, what sticks out the most about the historic event was the push the local agency made to try to get a federal emergency disaster declaration and bring much-needed aid dollars to the community.

Humbert and her team assessed damages nonstop at 60 locations from the day the system moved through all the way to the end of May. And even though Dubois County was hit harder than other counties in the state, the assistance never came.

“That, to me, that was hard,” Humbert said. “Because we couldn’t help everybody.”

Certain guidelines have to be met to qualify the damages for federal assistance, and though she and her team canvassed the area to find all who were affected, the numbers just never added up.

It wasn’t the worst disaster she’s been through — three months of Avian flu dealings and the fallout of tornadoes come to mind — but the flooding is memorable because of the history it made. The heavy downpours were classified by the National Weather Service as a 1,000-year flood event — or “something that was not ever supposed to happen,” Humbert said.

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Casey Kern of Schnellville and Max Hasenour of Celestine paddled back to dry land after inspecting the floodwaters surrounding Tri-State Live Haul in the WITZ Bottoms.

“It was really detrimental, the rain that came down, and I don’t think any of us had seen that,” she explained. “We’ve had flooding, even with the water going over the spillway at Patoka in 2011. [It] was still no comparison to what happened in 2017, because it was flash flooding. And flash flooding will just devastate.”

According to information from the county’s EMA, the majority of flood damage to homes occurred in the Huntingburg and Jasper areas. Sixty-one percent of those reported damages were in and around Huntingburg, and 23% were in and around Jasper.

Some of those affected received low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration, but they did not receive any government assistance.

Humbert explained that the Dubois County emergency management office works to try to get help from organizations, but they do not supply it.

Her work weighs on her.

“And that’s the hardest part about my job,” Humbert said. “Because my job is to help people, to save lives and property. That’s what we do in here. And when you can’t help them rebuild and get that back, it is hard.”

She feels strongly that she and her team did everything they could to find all the damages they could.

“Flooding is one of the worst disasters you can have because it does so much damage,” she said. “It’s just hard to explain it, but this was like an incredible eve




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