Experts keeping an eye on water levels as flood risk increases

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (February 20, 2014) — Flooding risks in Central Indiana are on the rise as snow melts and rain is in the forecast.

Experts with the U.S. Geological Survey in Indiana are monitoring water levels around the state.

Jeffrey Woods, a supervisory hydrologist with USGS said the frozen ground and built up ice will likely cause water to roll directly and quickly to low lying areas and local rivers and streams.

“Basically it creates an impermeable layer that allows the water to move straight into the river rather than being absorbed into the ground where it would be absorbed more slowly,” said Woods.

There are more than 200 stream gauges set up throughout Indiana. The data is collected in real time and sent to the National Weather Service for flood predictions and to FEMA to help map out flood plains and risk areas.

People can sign up for water alerts by going to the USGS website and finding a stream gauge near their home or business.

Woods said water levels are not particularly high right now in Central Indiana but conditions are prime for them to rise in the next few days.

Purdue University’s Agriculture specialists are also warning people about the possibility of flooding.

Steven Cain with Purdue’s Extension Disaster Education Network encouraged homeowners to check for areas around the house where heat has created a track between the home and ice or snow. That’s likely to be an area where water will roll back in.

He also reminded drivers to never drive through standing water. Just six inches of water can cause drivers to lose control and engines to stall.

In Hamilton County, sandbags are available to residents concerned about flooding. Unfilled sandbags and sand to fill them will be available at 1717 Pleasant St. in Noblesville beginning Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and, if needed, Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.

Hamilton County emergency management officials are also promoting a “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign by putting up signs in locations that are prone to flooding reminding drivers not to drive through water.