Utica residents pack up, move out as Ohio River rises

Utica residents pack up, move out as Ohio River rises
Utica residents were on the move Friday, packing up their belongings and getting out of town ahead of rising waters.
Though most Utica residents are used to flooding, they're hoping the coming weather isn't as bad as 1997. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Though most Utica residents are used to flooding, they're hoping the coming weather isn't as bad as 1997. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

UTICA, IN (WAVE) - Water levels are rising around southern Indiana. Friday's created a challenge for families living along the Ohio River as they pack up their homes ahead of the flooding.

The river is rising quickly, threatening the homes of many people living in Utica. By Friday evening, flood water began to take over some roadways, creeping up onto lawns and against homes. Some longtime residents there worry it will be as bad as the flood of 1997.

"I'm getting ready to leave now," Joe Lee, a Utica resident, said.

Lee and his wife live in a home along the riverfront. Friday, that river view was much closer than usual as flood waters inched closer to his home.

"This is the first time in 18 years that it's going to get inside," Lee said.

Lee and his family moved to Utica a few years after the 1997 flood. He said he knew it could flood but he never thought much about it.

"Not really, not until you go through it," Lee said.

By noon on Friday, the waters had already come up to his back porch. He said there's normally 18 feet of space between his porch and the river. By 5 p.m. Friday, that water was all the way up his lawn and covering the road leading to his home.

The ground floor of Lee's home is empty; the windows and doors are gone.

"Because of the waves from the barges and stuff like that and the debris and stuff coming in, so it'll just crush your windows and your doors," Lee said. "So we just take them off."

Down the road, Tom Price was working to pack up his parents' home while keeping a close eye on the Ohio.

"I've been watching it since I've been here around 9 o'clock this morning," Price said. "And you can visibly tell it's coming up."

Price's mother and stepfather live in Utica. He said he spent much of his childhood there. He's seen how bad it can get when the flood waters come up.

"I remember '97. I was in high school then and we had I think about four feet in the house and the upper level," Price said.

They've lucked out with less serious flooding in the 20 years since but he worries they won't be spared this time. It's why Price's family and volunteers braved the rain Friday to pack up everything they could into trailers, on a mission to get as much as they could out and onto higher ground before it's too late.

"You've got to get out," Price said. "That's part of living on the river they say."

Crews turned off gas and power to parts of Utica on Friday. Community leaders are keeping a close eye on the Ohio as updated river level reports come in, concerned about how high the water will rise.

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