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Milltown Councilwoman Jeanie Melton, right, and Glenn Crecelius watch the flooding from the Harrison County side of the Blue River Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Wade Bell)

Severe regional flooding follows heavy rains

March 26, 2008
At a storm spotter seminar in English on Wednesday, March 12, National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Callahan mentioned that "next Tuesday, you folks could be having some major weather problems." One week later, few could deny how accurate he was.

The rain started last Tuesday and just kept coming. The ground was already saturated from a foot of snow that melted just days earlier and the local creeks and rivers began to swell quickly.

By early last Wednesday morning, several homes were being evacuated in Milltown as the Blue River came out of its banks. The one-lane bridge there became impassable as water surrounded it and one entrance to the bridge was covered by the flood waters. At 10:30 a.m. Milltown officials declared a state of emergency. By 4 p.m., the floor of the bridge was almost under water.

Volunteers surrounding a Fredericksburg house with sandbags Wednesday use a canoe to get back and forth. (Photo by Chris Adams)
The curved bridge on North Milltown Road, which had been closed several days earlier for repairs, was opened for emergency traffic only. All other traffic in and out of Milltown had to be routed to Speed Road.

"The commissioners decided to open the curved bridge to emergency traffic around 8:30 this morning," Crawford County Highway Superintendent Lee Holzbog said last Wednesday.

At 2:25 p.m. the Crawford County Commissioners declared a state of emergency for the county.

Several roads in the county were affected by high water. Holzbog said Beechwood-Alton Road was closed. Hogtown Road was closed due to a wash-out of a bridge entrance, and several other roads, including Totten-Ford Road, experienced at least temporary problems.

U.S. 150 was closed at Fredericksburg and most houses near the Blue River there were inundated by Wednesday morning. According to some sources, the river crested at Fredericksburg around 3 p.m. But downriver, Milltown was still experiencing rising floodwaters, and residents and business owners were working hard to save what they could.

"We put everything we could on upper shelves," said Jayne Riddle, who with her husband, Mike, owns Milltown Mini-Mart. "We didn't have a lot of time to get ready, but we did the best we could."

Town officials said about eight families were moved from their homes in the downtown. An old barber shop building that sat near the river washed away and Castaways Restaurant, which sits just yards from the old dam, received extensive damage.

"It looks like Castaways took a pretty good hit," said Terry Stroud, a Milltown volunteer firefighter. "The front steps and deck are gone and it looks like the sides of the building are bulged out some."

The river kept rising throughout Wednesday afternoon and evening. Blue River Cafe had water about tabletop high in the lower level. Milltown Mini-Mart had water about two feet deep in the main part of the store, and Phillip's Heating and Air Conditioning had about 18 inches of water in the first floor.

On Back Street, water was about four feet high in most homes, and the American Legion had about two feet of water in the building. Members of the Milltown Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene as the river began to come out of its banks and stayed throughout the ordeal, rendering help wherever needed.

By about 7 a.m. Thursday morning, the river finally crested and slowly began receding. Cleanup began almost immediately. The firemen ran fire hoses and started washing mud as the water went down.

"My mom and stepdad, Bob and Norma Bright, who live on Back Street, got most of their valuable stuff out," Jim Adamson said. "They've lived on the river for over 20 years, so they're used to it. They just take it in stride anymore. As soon as the water goes down, we'll be in there hosing everything down and cleaning up the mess.

"I've been remodeling a small house next to theirs. Now, I guess I'll just have to remodel it again."

The Salvation Army set up a refreshment trailer behind the town hall for flood workers and displaced residents and the Red Cross was on hand to help people find shelter and fill out documents for flood assistance and insurance purposes.

By Friday morning, it was obvious that the entrance to the one-lane bridge had been washed away. The bridge, which had been almost completely underwater, would have to be inspected before being opened for traffic. By noon, the Crawford County Highway Department had men and equipment on the scene and made temporary repairs to the entrance.

Tony Phillips was washing out and cleaning his store. The Riddles had already cleaned the Mini-Mart and were open for business. Blue River Cafe officials already had people calling in for reservations and hoped to be ready for business by the weekend.

By Friday afternoon, most of the firefighters had gone home for showers and some much-needed rest. Congressman Baron Hill showed up around 5 p.m., but most of the cleanup had been completed and Milltown was back in business.

Once again, the little river town prevailed and will live to see another day, and another flood or two.

Click for Milltown flooding photo gallery

Click for Fredericksburg flooding photo gallery

Click for Regional flooding photo gallery

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