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Local residents share 2008 flood memories

Jul 14, 2023

Franklin resident Aidan Rogers took this photo of floodwaters outside his home in downtown Franklin in June 2008.

Submitted photo

Editor's note: The Daily Journal asked local residents to share their memories of the June 7, 2008 flood, which damaged homes, businesses and government buildings and upended the lives of many Johnson County residents. Here are some of the memories residents shared in their own words with edits with length, clarity and grammar.

Waters rose quickly

"It was raining, but it was a Saturday, so my mom and I went to the grocery store as usual. When we came home (to downtown Franklin), there was standing water on the street just a couple of houses down from us, but we were able to get back into the driveway and carry the groceries in. When we opened the basement door, we saw that there was water in the basement up to about the first stair. Prior to this, we had only had water in our basement one time — a Labor Day a few years before when it had rained cats and dogs. But it was just not something we were used to.

An hour or so later, the water was up to nearly the third step, and the whole basement was buzzing with an electrical noise. We figured out it was coming from the dryer. My neighbor told us to run down there real quick and unplug it, but we knew better — you don't step in knee-deep water that's buzzing. So we let it go until the water sufficiently killed it and the buzzing stopped.

A couple of the neighbors were trying to stay out and keep the storm sewers clear, but little did we know that what was actually happening was that the storm sewers were backing up. The water in our basement was the sewer water back-up that was going in our sump pump's out pipe — as it was the eight or so neighbors surrounding us.

All told, we ended up with nearly four feet of water in our basement and lost essentially everything that was down there — washer and dryer, furnace, water heater, water softener, irreplaceable memories. (I had several items from my deceased father I was storing in the basement.) While attempting the clean-up, I contracted E. coli from the sewage that was in the water. It was surreal when FEMA came and declared the house unlivable; he said we could still stay here, but deeming it unlivable gave us access to the resources we needed to recover.

I watched my neighbors come together in pouring rain and waist-deep water to help one another clear things out of their basements as the water rose. I had an uncle who brought his family to help us try to dry our basement out and replace things. A few friends from church came by several months later and helped me hang and mud the new drywall to replace the stuff we had to tear out emergently after the waters receded. And, of course, most of us — totally helpless to do anything about the rising water — sat on our porches, talking with one another, shouting across the street, and watching cars try to drive through the flood and get stuck. (Sometimes, folks are silly.)"

— Aidan Rogers, Franklin

Franklin resident Aidan Rogers took this photo of floodwaters outside his home in downtown Franklin in June 2008.

Submitted photo

Franklin resident Aidan Rogers’ neighbors stand in a flooded downtown Franklin street in June 2008.

Submitted photo

Franklin resident Aidan Rogers basement was inundated by water during the June 2008 flood.

Submitted photo

Leaving an area she called home

"They say everything happens for a reason. Of this, I am a firm believer. You may not ever find out what that reason is, but you might have an idea, or at least think you do. Things that happen in life forces change and most people don't like change. This flood brought change to a lot of people. It forced me out of the Valley which was a good thing in retrospect. Don't get me wrong, I loved growing up in Smith Valley and am a Johnson County girl at heart, but the neighborhood just wasn't the same as when I was a kid.

In June of 2008, we had rain that just wouldn't stop and every river, creek, stream and retention pond started to overflow.

There was flooding in many areas of Johnson County, but for this story, the main focus is Smith Valley, the 1000 block of Old Honey Creek Lane to be exact. That's where my house stood for over 50 years. My dad started building that house in 1952 and we moved in the same year I started school. I grew up getting my feet wet in Honey Creek and knew every inch of the Valley.

We had some flooding in those years, but it never was an issue for us. Maybe a little water in the yard, but never in the house. For some people farther down the lane it was a problem. Our lane was a dead-end and stopped just before the levee.

Then one day the levee broke and the water came with a vengeance. I had gone to work at Walker Hatchery at 8 a.m. that morning and by 8:30, mom called and said the water was coming in the front door. I rushed home and by the time I reached the United Methodist Church, that was as far as they would let me go. … First responders were everywhere. I knew mom was scared so I parked the car at the church and started walking. As I went down the hill by the church, I started wading deeper and deeper into the water. By the time I reached our lane, I had been through waist-deep water and my mom and nephew (Eric Chenault) were being brought out to higher ground in a boat by the fire department. As I got closer, I could see the water was up to the picture window on the house. That meant it was about 14 inches deep inside.

This was the start of a nightmare I will not soon forget.

I’m going to stop right here and tell everyone, if this ever happens to you, the first thing you do and I mean as it's happening, call your insurance agent and file a claim. Next thing, get a folder, envelope, tin can, whatever and save every receipt from everything you have to spend money on because you are displaced. Such as food, lodging, clothing and toiletries, everything. Even a new toothbrush or clean dry underwear. You may get reimbursed for it later. You may even want to get on a list for restoration companies. I called right away and still had to wait a few days before anyone came. Do you have any idea what muddy creek-soaked carpet and furniture smells like after five days in June? I’m sure somewhere along the line other things were floating down Honey Creek besides water.

Just know that I have come a long way since then, I’m doing well. I got a new house a few months after the flood and as it turned out I’m not far from Johnson County … just across the county line. The loss of things that can't be replaced, like photos, the family Bible and things that have been in the family for a long time, are missed. It took a toll on my mom. She just was never the same after that, leaving the home her husband built. She passed three years after the flood. R.IP. Martha Doty.

A special shout out to Bill Walker (R.I.P.) and Terry Doty. Without these two, I don't know where we would have ended up."

— Diane Doty, Indianapolis

Unable to return home at first

"I remember waking up to the continuous drumming of hard rain hitting our roof and windows. I turned on the TV and began listening to a weatherman explain where the flooding was taking place and warning drivers not to attempt driving through floodwaters over the road. As I pulled myself up to slip out of bed, I looked out the patio window to see the pond water next to the house rising toward our exterior basement door.

I woke up my wife, Helene, so that she could see what was going on. When I told her water may get into the basement, Helene wanted to know what we were going to do. Surely the flood water would start draining over the dam before it reaches the basement door. Anyway, it was too late to try stopping it.

‘What about the rentals?’ Helene asked. We have one apartment house near downtown Franklin that has flooded in the past. I replied that maybe I should take our portable pump to the house and install it in the basement just in case.

The trip to Franklin was uneventful. Even though it was pouring dogs and cats, the roads were open. No collection of flood water anywhere on the U.S. 31, farm fields, or ravens. Upon arriving at the house, I checked the basement which was completely dry. But just in case, I went ahead and installed the water pump. Not realizing at the time that if the basement flooded, it would knock out the power to the pump.

Once I got back home, we continued to listen to the news. The storm outside was now in full downpour. You couldn't see any distance out the window. The weatherman was in high gear warning about serious flooding and damage. I called some of our tenants in Franklin to get an update on any flooding. No one knew a thing about it. So, we began to worry.

We live in Amity. We have three different ways we can get to U.S. 31. But all three have areas where flood water can cover the road. I decided we needed to get out in case there were any flooding and/or damage to our apartments in Franklin. I know that was a very stupid move, but I threw some tools into our truck and started out.

We quickly found out our normal way out was covered by Youngs Creek water. We tried to go north on Mauxferry Road, but a low section of the road was covered by floodwater. We then turned around to go south on Mauxferry only to be stopped by more floodwater. Again, not my best move, I decided to take our small truck through the water.

To my surprise, the truck plowed through the water even though water was splashing over the front of the truck. I sped east on State Road 252 to U.S. 31. State Road 252 was blocked by Youngs Creek water. I turned around and went to Trafalgar to catch the north State Road 135 highway. We were not alone because State Road 135 was crowded with cars.

The highway crews were out early putting up road closed signs and flood warning signs. We traveled up State Road 135 to the first unblocked road then took Whiteland Road east to U.S. 31. Once in Whiteland, we turned south on U.S. 31 toward Franklin. We did not get far because flood water stopped traffic from traveling into the town. We began to realize that we were trapped. We could not get into Franklin, and we could not get back home.

We stopped at a gas station to figure out what we were going to do. We couldn't take a chance to go through the flood water again to get to our house, so my wife started calling local friends. We got in contact with friends who lived near Center Grove who immediately invited us to come over to their house to wait out the storm.

We ended up staying overnight with our Center Grove friends. The next morning, we went to Franklin, but roads were still blocked by water and highway barriers. Since we could not get to any of our rentals, we tried to find a way home, which we did. Fortunately, we did not have any basement damage. I estimated that 3 feet-high flood water was rushing over our dam. I prayed our dam would not be damaged, but unfortunately, the spillway was washed out and had to be replaced.

Tenants called us to let us know the damage done to their respective apartments. It was not good news. Four of our apartment houses south of the courthouse were completely flooded. The first house on South Main Street and South Street had 7 feet of water in it. The force of the water collapsed the south basement wall. The next three houses were flooded with 4 feet, 3 feet and 2 feet of water.

We owned a house near the creek on East Jefferson Street. It was flooded with 5 feet of water which caused the foundation to be washed out from under it. Plus, five of our apartment homes on near north Main Street and Home Avenue had their basements filled with water. Many of the basements contained hot water heaters, furnaces and A.C. units, electrical panels and stored items.

The tenant who lived in the house on East Jefferson Street told us he was asleep in his bed. He woke up to a strange gurgling noise. He stretched out his arm toward the edge of the bed only to have his hand splash water. Jumping up he realized the water level had reached the top edge of his bed. Panicking, he began looking around to determine what he should do. He was afraid to jump in the water as it might electrocute him.

He decided to jump on his dresser near the closet. He remembered the attic entrance was in that closet. He crawled into the attic, broke out the front window and went out onto the front porch roof. He was eventually rescued by firemen in a boat.

Several of our tenants on South Main Street were rescued by firemen in boats, as well. We tried to help many of our tenants find new housing, but to our surprise, we had several tenants just disappear. Several of them did not contact us as to where they went or how they were doing. We did later find out one woman and her son moved out of state to family members.

I do credit the local rental property owners for stepping up to take in many of our displaced tenants. I also thank the community of Franklin for showing up to pick up trash, helping us clean out the damaged homes, and even giving out meals while we worked on making the homes safe.

I especially thank the Franklin powers to be who helped us get compensation for the damaged homes. Without the help of the mayor's office and the department of planning, we would be in a terrible financial situation. I am proud of Franklin for making our damaged home areas into small park areas. Overall, Franklin and we came out better from this flood."

— Walter & Helene Roach, Amity

Waters rose quickly Leaving an area she called home Unable to return home at first