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Soaking experience doesn't faze emergency official
Flood brings trying times for Vigo County agency

May 18, 2002
Tribune Star

By Peter Ciancone

Dick Setliff got an early call Friday morning.

Lisa Bloesing, administrator at the Lakeview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, called at 4 a.m. to tell him that the lake they view was beginning to leak into the building.

It was the start of another day in the life of the director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency.

Things are a bit hectic these days. Heavy rains have flooded many parts of the county, causing county officials to declare a local emergency. Vigo County joined 14 other Indiana counties in making that move.

Setliff helped bring in a couple of wet/dry vacuums to Lakeview and recommended that residents be moved around within the facility. That helped stem that tide -- for a while, anyway.

By daylight, there's time for a cup of coffee and something to eat when another call comes in. This one is a bit more complicated.

Residents west of Battlerow Place in southwestern Vigo County report that a neighbor had gone to Georgia, leaving pigs and dogs on a piece of property surrounded by flooded fields.

To get to them, Setliff would need to use the agency's hovercraft, and they would need some kind of protection from the possibility that the dogs might not be happy to see them.

A sack of dry dog food would make the trip. A rifle would, too, just in case. The hovercraft is stored at the agency's building at Fourth and Farrington streets, so Setliff went there to hook up and to grab warmer clothing. The passage of a cold front last night had dropped temperatures into the 50s.

Ron Shaw, Vigo County Ordinance Control Officer, and Vigo County Sheriff's Deputy William Harvey met Setliff at the spot where they could put the craft into the water. Approaching noon, local residents pointed out where the flood water was deepest. As the men discussed their plans, a tractor came down the road and plowed through water near its axle, providing a graphic view of the water level.

As the hovercraft was lowered into the flood water, the rain started. Harvey wore a plastic cover on his flat-brimmed hat, Setliff a military issue flight suit.

The three took off to the west to seek their site.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Jon Marvel sat in a squad car to communicate between their trailer and the site. Within minutes of the hovercraft's departure, the animals' owner, Kenneth Frakes, drove up.

He had been making daily trips out to his animals to see that they were fed and safe.

False alarm, but Marvel couldn't recall Setliff and Harvey until they got to where they were going. The roar of the hovercraft engine wouldn't allow them to hear a radio call.

In less than half an hour, they were back, dripping with water, looking like they swam to the site.

The hovercraft blows up a thick mist, Harvey said, admitting that the joy of his first hovercraft ride had been offset by the miserable environment.

They left the food with the animals. The rifle had not been necessary. Harvey cheerfully suggested he'd use it on Setliff if he brought him out into that weather again.

By 2:30 p.m., Setliff was back at Lakeview. The wind picked up out of the north, and the lake water was blowing into the facility, forcing them to evacuate residents. Setliff stopped by to see how the work was progressing, standing to the side as everything seemed to be going smoothly.

By 4 p.m., Setliff was home, thinking of ways to fix a problem that had developed with the hovercraft.

He said he wasn't planning to go dancing.


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