This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ground breaking ceremony for the new firehouse

There was a good attendance for today's ceremonial groundbreaking for the new firehouse. The event began with remarks from the fire chief, Kenny Haun, who recounted the history of the fire department in Rensselaer. The first three vehicles that the department used, one from the late 19th century, one from the 1920s, and one from the 1940s, are now owned by the department. Until 1975, when the present fire house was built, the fire station was located where city hall is today.

 The mayor spoke briefly and recounted the hurdles that the project had encountered.
The sign had the names of companies that were vital in the process. The architects were Synthesis, the civil engineers were HWC Engineering, the structural engineer was LHB, the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer was Vector Consulting, and contractor was Tower Contracting. Not on the sign was the financial consultant who played an equally important part in getting the project to this stage.

Then it was time for the ceremonial shovel of dirt.
From left to right, Brian Egan head of the Renssealer Redevelopment Authority which will be the legal owner of the facility, Mayor Wood, Kenny Haun, city council member Scott Barton, fire department member and head linesman for the city electric, Lenny Larson, and city council member Ernest Watson Jr.

I talked to the the head of operations for Tower Contracting and he said that the first stage of construction would be to move dirt around on the property. The site of the building needs to be built up and much of the dirt for that will come from what will be the retention pond.

On another water-related topic. this morning the thunder of the passing storm woke me at 4:00. At that time the rain was in a thin band stretching from Rensselaer to the Illinois border. The storm changed shape and blew up south and east of Renssealer before heading away. We in town got only about a quarter of an inch of rain, but south and east they seemed to get a lot more. I drove to Monticello this morning and the fields east of town were much drier than when I was there a week ago. Coming back via Remington, I saw a lot of water in fields south of town. However, that water drains into the Iroquois below Rensselaer.

The Iroquois is below twelve feet so it is no longer in flood stage. Some of the cemetery roads are still under water, As I write this the river is at 11.78 and it looks like it will be below 11.5 feet by the end of the day. The flow as I write this is 1390 cubic feet per second, which still easily beats the previous daily record flow of 998 from 1968.

Monday, June 29, 2015

We need more rain

We need more rain if the Iroquois River is to continue breaking the daily flow records. It easily surpassed the record on Sunday, beating the 1290 cubic feet per second set in 1968. The river was dropping on Sunday and was a bit below 1900 cubic feet per second late in the day. Today the record is 1160 cfs also set in 1968. As I write this it is at 1660 cubic feet per second but it is falling rather fast. The river started the day just a bit under 13.5 feet and it looks like it will end the day under 12.5 feet.

If you get near the water that has not yet drained, you may see a lot of movement. There are frogs and tadpoles and little fish in it. Many will get stranded, die, and add to the stench that the water already has. As the water recedes, it leaves behind muck, like that covering the roads and grass in Weston Cemetery. The bottom part of the picture looks like it was taken with black and white film. (Some of you are probably too young to remember film, much less black and white film.)
 I noticed a flower that I had not seen before growing in my flowers. It is swamp milkweed. I must have planted it a few years ago and did not realize until now that it actually grew. It is a milkweed that does not look like a milkweed, though the shape of its flowers gives it away. It has been a good year for it with all the rain. I wonder how it will do in drier years.
 Everything is green. The wild raspberries are ripening. I like the taste but do not care for the many little seeds the berries have. If you look carefully, you will see another sign of summer. Can you see the Japenese beetle in the picture? They are back.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Last Saturday of June

June has almost gone! How did it slip by so quickly?

I found a street closed sign today that was not for flooding. The Eagles are having a fund raiser to help a family with a baby with a rare medical or genetic condition. Their event goes all day and into the night. Part of it was a motorcycle ride that started about an hour after I took this picture.
 The Farmers Market seemed to have fewer vendors today. However, the SJC gardens were selling  kohlrabi bigger than any I remember seeing. They were the size of softballs or bigger.
There was a big auction at the Fairgrounds today, big enough so the stuff was displayed in two of the buildings. There were old items that I thought interesting, such as these license plates, some of which date back to the 1920s.
When I was a boy, I had a wind-up train similar to this one. That was back in the 1950s, when the arrival of the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Montgomery Ward caused great excitement for children.
 This 80-year-old basketball schedule is in remarkably good shape.
 I wonder when this baby equipment was last used.
 Even older than the basketball schedule is this football schedule that is over 90 years old.
The inch of rain we got yesterday stopped the decline of the river and has it rising again. The Iroquois will set another daily record, easily surpassing the 1968 flow of 1190 cubic feet per second with a flow of 2100 cubic feet, give or take 50 cubic feet. Although the river is rising, College Avenue and Lincoln Street are both open. At its low point only the center of College is dry so cars are taking turns using the center rather than splashing through in their own lanes.

The corn in the fields is remarkably varied from field to field and within fields. Some of it is over a yard tall and looks great. A few rows away may be some that is only a foot tall, is yellow green, and looks awful. Where the water has been standing too long, there is no corn.

The river will break all its records this month. It will set records for biggest one day flow, biggest three day flow,  seven day flow, fifteen day flow, and monthly flow. July of 2003 averaged an amazing 1438 cubic feet per second; 2015 will easily beat that. There are already 14 days with stream flow greater than 2000 cubic feet per second and another six with values between 1670 and 2000, and it seems likely that the rest of the days of the month will exceed 1500 cubic feet per second.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ribbon cutting

The Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting on Thursday to announce their new office on Drexel Drive. After the ribbon cutting, the office hosted a Business after Hours event. The attendance was a bit better than at the last Business after Hours, but still a bit disappointing.
 The College Mall looks a bit different, though the Fireworks sign should disappear before the end of July.
It is raining again today. It seems to do that most days.

On Thursday the Iroquois River smashed its old daily flow record of 787 cubic feet per second set in 1975 with a flow of about 2100 cubic feet per second. Today it will also demolish the old record for this date of 1040 cubic feet per second also set in 1975. The flow is about 2000 cubic feet per second. The river may dip below 14 feet later today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Welcome to Rainselaer Adventures

The good news is that we got less than the predicted amount of rain last night. The gauge at City Hall recorded .59 inches and my rain gauge had a tad more. The smaller-than forecast rain has changed the river crest outlook from what was alarming to something encouraging. The river has stopped dropping for now but it is not rising either. On Friday it should again start dropping.

Of course a big rain can change everything.

More rain (updated)

The start of the rain woke me up this morning at about 3:00 am. A look at the radar suggests we will be getting a lot--the rain stretches back into Iowa. I found a couple of forecasts for the river (they are based on the same forecasts, but displayed differently) here and here. They predict that the river will rise again to almost the levels that we experienced last week. I hope they get revised downward and we get less rainfall than predicted.

Here is another graph with another peak. It shows visitors to this blog in June. The spike is for the first posts on the major flooding, posts that were shared by many people on Facebook. The total number of visitors was almost 8000, far more than this blog has ever had in a day.

Time to go back to bed and see if I can get any sleep.

Update: We got less rain than predicted so now the forecast is that the river will continue to decline after a slight pause.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three floods

Poking around on the USGS site for river flow, you can find all sorts of information and data. Here are graphs of three major floods on the Iroquois, the June 1958 flood, the July 2003 flood, and the ongoing June 2015 flood. In both 1958 and 2003 the river was at a very low level when rains hit. Both shot up to a peak and then receded with a bump or two along the way. In the case of 2003 the second bump was sizable.

 In contrast, the river was not at unusually low levels this year when the big rains came, and the peak (so far) did not occur early in the flooding. Rather the peak was delayed.
 The time scales and the discharge are not equal--June 2015 has only 24 days on it, not yet the full month.

We will set another daily record today. The old record was from 1981 when the river was flowing at the rate of 770 cubic feet per second. It currently is flowing at 2260 cubic feet per second. It seems to have peaked from the last rain, but we may get heavy rain tonight. (I am hoping that it will miss us and go further south.)

In other happenings, there are about 250 football players in camps at SJC. I saw vans from four school districts. There were two practices going on in these fields and another one or perhaps two on the field south of the soccer fields. At least they are getting some cooler weather.
 Paving is about to begin on the new road in Drexel Industrial Park. The excavators have been replaced with equipment from Town and Country Paving.  I do not know if there will be curbs.
There is still work going on inside the Royal Oak Restaurant. They have constructed a new entrance directly onto Drexel Drive. A few days ago I asked a worker I saw outside of the restaurant when it would open and he said they were hoping for an opening in about two weeks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rising again

With the river falling for the past four days, it seemed that we might be nearing the end of what has been a very long flood. Unfortunately, a band of storms that spawned tornados in Illinois passed our way last night. We got two waves of storms, one about 11:00 that passed through rather quickly and then faded away as it moved further east, and another that looked like it dumped a huge amount of rain in the Kankakee, Illinois region before finally moving though our area. Rensselaer was on the southern edge of that storm that hit us about 1:00 in the morning. The total from both in my rain gauge was in the 1.3 to 1.4 inches range. However, from the radar it appeared that the area to our north got a lot more than that, and whatever they got has to come through Rensselaer.

The Iroquois River stopped its descent and started rising sharply. At this time one cannot tell how high it will go.
Here is College Avenue after the City Council Meeting last night. At the meeting the city officials said that they planned to re-open the roads this morning after they were cleaned up. This morning water is again across the road and the river is rising, so it may be a few more days before this road is open to traffic.
 Lincoln Street has water flowing over it in the two places it most recently had water, and water from the creek is flowing over the road in Brookside Park. The intersection of College and Front again has water flowing over it.

I mentioned that the City Council met last night. It was the first meeting for the new editor of the Rensselaer Republican and it will be interesting to get her take on it.

First order of business was a plea from the head of the Jasper County Community Services to include her organization in the annual budget. She said that the Community Services vans are the only form of public transportation in the city and that last year they made many more trips than projected. She also said that organizations like hers were starting to rely more on local funding.

The City's financial consultant attended the meeting to explain two items on the agenda. The first was an ordinance to fund the extension of the water main to the Interstate. The ordinance is needed to sell bonds, but because there are several other projects that the City wants to include in the bond issue, the bonds will not be sold until next year. In the meantime the ordinance permits the selling of bond anticipation notes. The actual ordinance is a long document prepared by lawyers. Normally this type of ordinance requires several meetings to pass, but the council voted to suspend the rules and they did all the necessary voting to pass it. Construction is almost ready to begin on the project and the next step will be to get construction bids. Once started, it should take about 180 days to complete.

The other financial item was a resolution to satisfy the requirements of the USDA for financing the storm water treatment plant that will be built on Lincoln Avenue. The City was approved for a grant and a loan (grant about $5 million and a loan of about $1.8 million) from the Federal Government, and this resolution was a necessary step in the process of getting that funding.

Also on the funding theme, the bond sale for fire house construction will be on the 25th. The interest rate will be 3.8% and construction may start as early as July 1.

Not on the printed agenda was an ordinance for the electric tracker. Electric rates will increase.

The city has compiled a list of unsafe buildings and properties and the council passed a resolution to allow the building inspector to begin the legal work needed to clean them up or demolish them. This is again a first step and other steps will be needed before anything is actually done.

The mayor reported that Rensselaer was expected to contribute some monies to keeping the Amtrak service running, about $280 dollars a month for the rest of this year and a bit less than $400 a month for next year. He wanted the council to approve the funding for next year (the budge already includes funding through December), and they did with one negative vote.

The Police Chief announced that the Board of Public works had interviewed three candidates for an opening on the police force and had made a conditional offer to one. Those meetings had been held earlier in the day. The gas department announced that it was ready to begin work on the three gas line extensions as soon as weather permits. The piping has been delivered to the gas department..
Finally, the city announced that those who have extra trash to put out due to flooding should call the city to arrange a pick up. There will be no charge for pick up of flood damaged trash if the pickup is arranged.

Update: The slope of the rise on the graph is shallower than it was for the rise a week ago. Hopefully that means that the rise will not be nearly as big.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Receding River

The river continues to fall and as I write this it is at 14.23 feet, That is down from a high of about 16.67 feet, so the river does not look too bad right now. Of course in most years we never get the river this high and when we do, we consider it a big deal. Over 14 feet is considered moderate flood stage, and it should pass into slight flood stage before the end of the day. We are still setting daily records and may for a few more days. Below are some pictures.

There are no flowers blooming in the rain garden/retention pond at the water treatment plant. The rain garden at Potawatomie Park was completely submerged during the flood and is still under water, but the tops of some of the plants are now visible. It will be interesting to see if all the plants survive. They were chosen as plants that tolerated wet conditions.

The bridge over the creek in the cemetery is reappearing. You can see the difference a few days make by comparing this picture to the one here.
Much of Potawatomie Park is now above water, but the grass is dirty. Anywhere that water sat for a while is full of dirt and slime.
 There are dead worms everywhere and there is a fishy stench near the water. It appears that algae grew very well in the flood waters.

Now we have a bumper crop of mosquitoes to worry about. Some people will have to figure out what they will do with the many sandbags that they used to keep dry. Basements will have to be cleaned. There will be a lot of work to be done.

Right now Brookside Creek (aka Maxwell Ditch) is no longer over the roads to Brookside Park. There is just a bit of water covering College by Iroquois Park but the city still has that road closed. There is also still a bit of water over Lincoln Street, and that is also still closed. However, the LaRue Pool is open today for the first time in several days.

It is not just the river that is receding. We have passed the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the day on which the Sun reaches it northernmost  position in the sky. Now for six months it will travel south.

The Facebook page for Rensselaer Adventures passed 1000 likes last week.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Falling water

Yesterday I heard a helicopter overhead. Yesterday evening pictures taken from that helicopter were being shared by many Rensselaerians on Facebook. If you have not seen them already, check them out.

The good news is that the river levels are falling. As I write this the river is at 15.88 feet, down from 16.67 a couple days ago. That eight or nine inches makes a huge difference on where the water is. Below is a picture of the cemetery yesterday evening.
 Here is the same area at a little after noon today. Note that you can see how much the water has receded by the road. A few inches of decline can uncover several feet of road when there is little grade.
 Last night only the top bolt of the fire hydrant at the corner of Elza and Lincoln was visible.
 Today it is slowly emerging.
 Last night the river was running through Bicentennial Park. Today you can see the mud left on the grass where last night water was flowing.
 The sandbagged houses on College are less threatened. However, Rensselaer  still has plenty of pumps running.
Today the intersection of College and Front is dry for the first time in several days. Yesterday city crews were pumping water to clear it. Lincoln and College still have deep water--the river will have to drop another foot or two before they dry out.

 The Red Cross set up temporary shelter at the Presbyterian Church. It is now closed, though they will have hours to give out information about flood clean up.

We were lucky in that we missed rain from the remnants of tropical storm Bill. The rains with that system hit southern and central Indiana. However, we still may not be out of the woods (or water). There is a line of storms heading our way in Illinois. Last night Chad Evans in his final weather report (he has left WLFI for a job in Evansville) said that he thought the storms would be falling apart as they reached our area. If he is wrong and we get some heavy rain, we may retest the highs. Plus there is rain in the forecast for most days next week. Again, if we get hit by a storm with heavy rain, the river may rise again.

But for now we can rejoice about the receding river.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A few non-flood items

The flooding continues and it is getting old. It appeared that the river was cresting this morning at about 16.67 feet but the rain this afternoon will either prolong the crest or give us one somewhat higher. The high in 2003 was 16.59, so we appear to have broken that record. I had a meeting in Monon this afternoon and was impressed with how much water was in the fields near Laird's Landing. There is a lot of water that has to drain through Rensselaer.

Other things are happening. On Tuesday I went to the annual carry-in dinner and meeting of the Jasper County Historical Society. The talk after the meal was about the many houses that Fred McColley built in the early part of the twentieth and the last bit of the 19th centuries. He built many of Rensselaer's finest homes, usually in the Craftsman style. Brian Capouch gave the talk and his notes for the talk are here.

Because of this meeting, I missed the County Council meeting. I did not see anything that looked really exciting on the agenda, but appearances are often deceiving.

There was supposed to be a ground breaking ceremony for the new Comfort Suites that is being built by I-65 but it was postponed. Actual ground breaking has already occurred.

The public relations sign announcing the motel has been covered with rules and regulations.
 The competition down the road has a new name. It used to be Knights Inn.
 Also on Wednesday Teen Mission held a fund raiser. The teens and pre-teens in the program put on a variety show and the audience voted for the best act by contributing money. Teen Mission will be active in late July and early August doing work to help people.
Of course the big story is the flood. Here is a picture to follow up some pictures I had early in flood of the bridge over the creek in Weston Cemetery. This is what the bridge looked like on Thursday.
What--you cannot see the bridge? That is because it is three or four feet under the water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Some more flood pictures

The river has risen several inches since this morning. Below is a picture of the hydrant at Lincoln and Elza. Can you see it? Only a little of the top is above water.
 This is a common sight as you walk or bike the streets of Rensselaer.
Some kids were playing in the water on College Street this evening. It is more than knee deep, and considerably deeper if one goes into the park. There is also a current in this water.
The water is up to the Washington Street Bridge on the south side. There are still a few inches of clearance on the north side. The Indiana Department of Transportation has this bridge on its repair or replacement list. They need to make it a little higher.
 I think the water has reached the floor of Ayda's. The door is sandbagged.
Here is the water flowing under the College Street Bridge. You can see in the picture that the water is moving rapidly. The latest water flow statistic for Laird's Landing is that the flow is 2830 cubic feet per second and the river is at 16.53 feet.
 If you have sandbags around your house, you may have pumps that do this.
 The USGS water site for Laird's Landing has this graph showing yearly peaks. It seems clear to me that there is an upward trend in these points. Do you think better field drainage might be a reason?
If you go downstream to Foresman, that site is only at a moderate flood stage, and further downstream at Sheldon, their peak flow is still well below the 1958 flow. Both are still waiting for the peak from this flood.