Permanent flood barriers to replace some temporary signs in Johnson County

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind.-- Traffic and safety officials in Johnson County hope several permanent flood barriers will prevent drivers from ignoring temporary warning signs and getting stranded in flood water.

County officials are spending roughly $3,000 to install at least three of the barriers in flood-prone areas of the county. The barriers will resemble gates that can be closed and locked across a roadway during times of heavy rain. Highway Department Director Luke Mastin said the areas will include portions of County Roads 250 South, 400 South and Greensburg Road. All three areas are within a few miles of each other, near US 31.

County officials hope to install the permanent barriers within the next several weeks.

Bargersville Fire Department Division Chief Eric Funkhouser supports the plan and hopes to see even more barriers be installed in the future.

“Having a locking gate to keep somebody from driving through that area is fantastic for us,” Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser’s comments come after a frustrating day that saw first responders having to rescue several drivers who had stalled in Tuesday’s flooding around central Indiana.

Franklin and Bargersville Firefighters rescued two stranded drivers on the same road Tuesday.

Bargersville and Franklin firefighters were called out twice to the same area of County Road 200 North Tuesday. Two different drivers had to be rescued from the same area within a few hours of each other. Funkhouser said a person driving a small, silver car drove around a “high water” warning sign and became stranded. Firefighters were able to rescue that person using a department ladder truck. A few hours later, a man in a red pickup drove around the stalled silver car, which was still sitting in the water. The red pickup made it farther through the water, but stalled before making it across the rushing water.

“I think it was very surprising to us,” Funkhouser said. “We didn’t expect another one due to the fact that there was a car already sitting there already stalled out.”

Franklin firefighters had to walk out through the moving water and rescue the driver with an inflatable boat.

“It’s very dangerous for the rescuers,” Funkhouser said. “The water is moving very quickly, you don’t know if the roadway is till there.  You don’t know what you’re walking on.”

Funkhouser says too many drivers ignore “high water” signs during times of heavy rain.

“There was so much frustration yesterday with the Sheriff’s Department and everybody because they’re putting up the barriers, they’re trying to block the roadways and people still continuously driving around the barriers that are set,” he said.

Water rescues are dangerous for victims and first responders, Funkhouser said. Responding to multiple, preventable situations in one day is putting too many lives at risk.

“The dangerous part for us in these scenarios is just the moving water itself,” Funkhouser said. “I mean, up to six inches of moving water, if it’s moving fast enough, can knock you off your feet.”

“If you stall out in one to two feet of water, then we have to go out in that,” he said. “And we’re putting ourselves in harms way, knowing that we could get swept off our feet and then down river also.”

Funkhouser hopes the permanent flood barriers will keep more people from driving into flood water and becoming stranded. He also hopes Tuesday’s flooding will serve as a reminder to drivers to always avoid driving into flood water.

“There’s no reason to put yourself in harms way, and to put the responders in harms way if you would just take a different route,” he said.