UTICA, IN (WAVE) – Just weeks ago, flooding along the Ohio River displaced many families as the high water wreaked havoc on homes and businesses.
Now, FEMA crews are on the ground in southern Indiana, working to find out just how much damage was caused. For the small river community of Utica, this damage assessment is the first step toward to rebuilding.
Thick mud and debris from the river sits behind around roads in Utica. On people's homes, a water line lets you know just how high the waters here got. Now, FEMA is here working to assess the damage to Utica and communities like it around the region.
"We're going to go until we see everything," said Steve Cooper, an individual assistance emergency manager for FEMA.
Walking through the rain and mud Tuesday, Utica emergency manager Curtis Wells walks around homes in Utica hit by February flooding.
"It was quite devastating to a lot of homeowners," Well said. He took FEMA and state crews to see each home impacted by the flood, one by one.
"We have several homes that have major damage to the structure, to the foundation. We have a lot of homes that have drywall, insulation issues," Well said.
Utica is one of many communities Steve Cooper and FEMA crews will see in the state as they verify the damage, putting together a preliminary damage assessment.
"From house to house, it's different. Some had it worse than others. Some people got lucky, other people definitely took the brunt of it," Cooper said. "So the reason for the damage assessment is to see if there's enough damage to warrant a presidential declaration. That's something the state is going to request and that's why we're here gathering with our locals and our partners."
If they find there is enough damage to warrant a presidential declaration, Utica could receive some federal help in rebuilding.
Wells says 23 homes were bought out by FEMA from the '97 flood. He said many of the families impacted have lived here for generations and don't want to move, but many do want to rebuild. Having FEMA here gets them closer to that.
"But having them here just puts us one step closer to getting that declaration," Wells said.
Now that the flood waters have gone down, the community here is focused on the rebuilding process. Since some of the homeowners flooded this time around do not have flood insurance, Well said they're looking for any kind of help they can get, whether it's federal assistance or a volunteer crew helping people replace drywall and do other house work. He said many in the community hope that with FEMA's help, they'll be able to make sure their town bounces back from the flood.