ARCADIA — More than 5,000 people got an emergency day off Thursday.
Heavy rains from overnight thunderstorms dropped almost 10 inches of rain on parts of the city, causing Turton Creek near downtown to overflow its banks. The creek washed out Oak Street and caused massive flooding that shut down most of the downtown’s businesses as well as much of Ashley Furntiture Industries and Gold’n Plump operations.
“We’re a city with more than 5,000 jobs,” Chamber of Commerce member Jason Lockington said. “We’re basically idle until we get the city back up and running.”
Ashley founder Ron Wanek was out Thursday inspecting the damage with city engineer Mike Davy, owner of Davy Engineering. After the water went over Turton Creek’s banks, Davy said, it washed over Oak Street, taking out the road and causing damaging to neighboring homes before rushing down Main Street, before turning and flooding much of the property Ashley Furniture sits on.
The Ron Wanek School of Leadership and three of Ashley’s plants were flooded, with Plant 4 seeing the least damage and Plant 3 being totally ruined, Wanek said. Plant 4 was in partial operation on Thursday, while Wanek said it would likely be next week before work could start in the other facilities.
Steve Horton and Kayla Finner rented a home along Oak Street where Turton creek washed out the road. Horton said he noticed the water coming up around 10:30 Wednesday night. At its height, the water rose up to the second step of the porch on the house and flooded the basement with eight inches of water, and nearly an inch of water and mud cover the floor of the family’s garage.
This is the eighth time the creek overflowed its banks, Horton said, and the highest it has ever been. The washout took out some of the family’s front yard but stopped before got near the house, unlike the neighbors whose driveway and much of their yard got torn up by raging floodwaters.
“We’re just trying to get things dried out,” Horton said as he helped his family pump water out of the basement and move items out of the garage Thursday morning. “Thankfully, the house is structurally sound.”
Addressing flood control on Turton Creek is a priority for the city, Mayor Rob Reichwein said, but a major flood control project is too expensive for the city to tackle on its own. City staff are working with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on grants and other funding sources that could be used to get things moving.
“We need to shore that up,” he said. “We’re working with state leadership to take care of it.”
Myers Valley Creek, which overflowed during the 2010 flood and caused $10 million in damage, stayed within its banks this time, thanks to a $1.5 million flood control project the city finished last fall. Ashely general site contractor David Hetch monitored the new dike Wednesday night, and he his son Dan responded at 1 a.m. when a 150-foot stretch of the dike started to breach, using rocks to raise it.
Due to the washout on Oak Street, Arcadia Fire Chief Jeff Halverson said emergency crews responded to a gas leak as well as as one at a home where a basement wall caved in. City police and firefighters spent their night helping to evacuate 30 residences affected by the rising floodwaters, all of whom were allowed back into their homes by late afternoon Thursday.
While residents were checking out the damage, local utility companies including CenturyLink were examining the damage to the city’s infrastructure and large earthwork equipment such as backhoes and dump trucks came in to help clean up the damage. The city’s efforts to pump out the floodwater was going well Thursday afternoon, Halverson said, but Arcadia and its residents will likely spend several days digging out from all the mud and water, and tallying the flood damage to businesses and homes.
“The city did a phenomenal job,” he said. “This is not the first time we have been through this. Everyone knows their role.”
Sharon Haines, a longtime resident of Arcadia, left the relative dryness of her home Thursday morning to survey the flooding and storm damage in other parts of her little town. Taking a break along a muddy sidewalk, Haines could do little but shake her head.
“In my 50 years of living here, this is the worst it’s ever been,” said Haines, who estimated that, between two storms Wednesday and early Thursday, Arcadia received seven inches of rain.
“It just keeps coming and coming and coming,” she said. “Maybe we’ll build an ark.”
A blue-uniformed letter carrier toting a bag stuffed with mail made her rounds on Main Street. Letter carriers have an unofficial motto about rain and sleet. But there’s no mention of floods.
“I haven’t been over there,” she said, looking down the street and toward the swampy blocks of downtown Arcadia. “But it don’t look good.”