Standing outside the first-floor garage of their two-story home on Salt Creek Road, Gary and Brenda DeWees scrubbed slime-like mud and sorted through what can be salvaged.
They have been in this spot before, though it was worse last time. In 2008, they lost everything.
“It’s just absolutely devastating,” Gary DeWees said.
After the flood of 2008, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources told the couple they had to rebuild and elevate their home.
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The $42,000 they received from insurance fell far short of what was needed, DeWees said.
Seven years later, having the living area on the second floor reduced the loss but didn’t eliminate it.
The garage was filled with camping gear, power tools, lawn equipment and a car and truck. Seeing the forecast for the week, the couple moved into action.
“We went down and pretty much got everything off of the floor that we could, just in case,” Gary DeWees said.
It wasn’t enough.
DeWees pointed to the high-water mark on the back wall of the garage: 4 feet, at least a full foot over the tallest bench on which items were stacked.
A portable generator sat nearby, coated in silt.
DeWees’ 1999 truck has 70,000 miles and a new engine he recently put into it. To the insurance company, its only value is as a 1999 truck, and he does not expect insurance will come close to replacing what he lost.
“It’s got an emotional strain; there’s absolutely no doubt about that,” he said. “I mean, you could just almost go to pieces. It’s just the stress of losing stuff.”
But even as they cleaned and waited for the insurance adjuster, DeWees was looking to the future.
The couple are considering a flood alarm, which would let them know as soon as water begins to rise. It might not allow them to save everything but would at least let them take some kind of action, rather than waking up in the morning when everything is under 4 feet of water.
And, just as they did seven years ago, the couple have friends they can count on.
One neighbor had been over that morning to clean silt and mud off of their carport, and co-workers from Brown Circuit Court were expected that evening to help scrub and clean.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Joe Tenbarge has dealt with rescuing flood victims before, but the satisfaction he takes from it never gets old.
“It’s one of the reasons I joined this department,” said Tenbarge, who will have been with the DNR four years in September.
In the early morning hours of July 13, Tenbarge rode out with Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies to rescue six residents on Salt Creek Road from the back of a dump truck where they had sheltered from flood waters.
“I’m a diver, so as far as water rescues and water recoveries, any time something local comes up, I usually go to it,” he said.
But, as a law enforcement officer, Tenbarge often deals more with the criminal side of the community, he said.
“I always knew that I wanted to help people when I could, and usually you deal with them in the worst times possible,” Tenbarge said. “To go out and actually help somebody and get them to safety — it’s definitely a rewarding experience.”