Week of 2/20/18 – 2/23/18
The week’s flooding events began when the weather service issued areal flood warnings Monday February 19. These warnings were pushed out through weather apps and news outlets and were upgraded to include the flooding of the St. Joseph River by Tuesday.
The St. Joseph River crested at 17.3’ on February 22, 2018 which exceeded advance warning and historical flooding references by over 2 feet. The residents of the City of Niles have never seen anything like the flood of 2018 as models showed the flood zone beyond the 500 year flood mark.
As of February 22, 2018, more rain was predicted, however, no weather models indicate additional flooding, only a delay in water recession. We anticipate that the river will not return to below major flood levels until the middle of next week.
During the week, crews identified around 50 structures as flooded due to the St. Joseph River flooding. Two apartment complexes were also in the flood zone, but did not take on enough water to necessitate mandatory evacuations
The Niles Housing Commission offered voluntary evacuation for the residents on the 1st floor (9 units) as a precaution. Only 3 households opted to be evacuated to a nearby hotel. A plan was developed to ensure a 24-hour response should conditions worsen and necessitate mandatory evacuation.
One apartment complex with 16 units lost a basement wall and was deemed unsafe for occupancy. Residents were immediately evacuated with the help of Niles Dial A Ride, the Niles District Library and the Red Cross. The Red Cross worked with these families to find safe shelter.
Sandbags There have been many questions about the use of sandbags. Properly filled and placed sand bags can be an effective way to prevent or reduce flood water damage but due to the magnitude of this flood, sand bags would have been unable to stop the flow and could have created dangerous water levels at nearby properties and farther into the downtown and neighborhoods adjacent to the river.
In 1981 and again in 1988, the City saw the river flood to just over 15 feet. At that time, sandbags were filled and deployed but unfortunately, the barriers were breached both times and flood waters made their way through town. City leaders learned that sandbags are not always an effective measure in the event of flooding because water seeps through the bags and finer materials tend to leak out through the seams.
Sandbags are basically for low-flow protection (up to two feet). Protection from high flow requires a permanent type of structure. Sandbag construction does not guarantee a water-tight seal and cannot be relied on to keep water outside a building.
That said, we have provided sandbags upon request and they remain available by calling the City Administrator's Office at 269-683-4700 ext. 3011..