County considers floodgates northeast of Huntingburg


Even though driving across a flooded road is dangerous, some drivers insist on driving their regular route, despite the condition of the road being anything but regular.

“We’re all creatures of habit. We don’t want to defer off our normal route,” said Dubois County Highway Supervisor Steve Berg. “You’re in a long and heavy rain spell and you see water there on the road, and you think, ‘I can make that.’ And the next thing you know, you didn’t.”

Not only is it dangerous for the driver, it is dangerous for law enforcement who must rescue the driver.

“If somebody gets injured or killed during this, how do you explain that to that person’s family?” Berg said. “Just don’t drive through high water.”

The county highway department is considering placing floodgates on County Road 400 South east of Van Buren Street. The area is the site of frequent rescues when the road floods, Berg has told the Dubois County Commissioners. The western gate would be just west of the road’s railroad crossing, and the eastern gate would be situated south of County Road 375 South. The gates would be similar to the gates on Kellerville Road near Cathy Lane.

When using the gates, the county’s policy is to keep them closed until all the water is off the road and the road debris has been cleared.

In various rain events, including the most recent ones, people who have chosen to drive through floodwaters on County Road 400 South have gotten stuck and had to be rescued by law enforcement.

The road is heavily traveled, as many drivers use it to avoid using U.S. 231 when going between Huntingburg and Jasper.

Floodwaters are tricky and should not be crossed, Berg said. While a stalled car is one scenario, there are other scenarios that can be more dangerous.

“If you have a current flow, with the water going across the road, it can sweep you off the road,” Berg said. “A lot of our roads have deep ditches on either side of it. And when you see nothing but water, you have no idea what’s around there.”

Not only does the water stand on the roads, it also causes heavy damage to the roadways. “Culverts are washed out. Roadways are washed out,” Berg said. “We’ve seen cases where it’s flipped the pavement right off of the roadway.

“If you can’t see the road below you, you have no idea what’s there or what’s not there,” he continued. “You can be on the roadway and then suddenly drop into a 10-foot-deep hole where a culvert used to be.”

Drivers may have a false sense of safety because they can see the center line and think they can drive through as long as they see that line.

“But if this stretch of road is a quarter-mile long and all of a sudden the road elevation drops a little bit — and they’ll tend to do that — you can lose sight of a center line,” Beg said. “Now you’re in the middle of the road, and you feel like you want to turn around. But how can you when you don’t know where the edge of the road is? It’s just good practice to just not get yourself involved in a situation like that.”

Drivers must be wary when encountering a flooded road, Berg said.

“As just a general rule, I wouldn’t even try to cross through it,” he said. “Floodwaters impact our roads in a hurry. You have to make adjustments in your driving habits.”

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