JACKSON COUNTY, Ind. – The president of the Jackson County Council is proposing a plan that would allow a maximum $1,000 fine for a driver who disregards flood warnings, becomes stranded in flood water, and requires rescue.
Council President Dave Hall says emergency responders in the county have had to rescue 15 drivers who became stranded in flood water since early December. And while Hall says he understands accidents and honest mistakes happen, the dangerous situations often result from drivers underestimating the depth and power of flood water.
“The number one thing they say is ‘I knew I shouldn’t have done this,’” Hall said. “And then the second thing they say is ‘I’ve made it through before with no problem.’”
Hall’s proposal would double the county’s current $500 fine, which currently helps fund vehicle repair and maintenance for police vehicles. Under Hall’s plan, half the money collected in fines would go to a fund that volunteer fire departments could use for swift water rescue training and equipment. The other half could go to education and advertisement campaigns about the dangers of driving into flood water. One example, he says, could be billboards placed in flood-prone areas during high-water season.
“When you enter the flood water, you’re taking your own life and risking it,” Hall said. “Any passengers that are in your vehicle, you’re risking their lives. And then if you become stranded, you’re risking the lives of the first responders.”
The National Weather Service’s Hydrologic Prediction Service website is currently predicting the East Fork White River near Seymour will crest at 18.6 feet between Friday night and Saturday morning. At that level, the website says extensive flooding will occur on surrounding roads and properties. Portions of County Road 760 East will be under as much as two feet of water. Farm fields in the area will become catch basins, and the Seymour Wastewater Treatment Plant will be surrounded by flood water.
“This facility will be an island all by itself,” said Seymour Assistant Utility Director, Rick Steward.
Steward said the wastewater plant will always continue operating, but employees at the plant will likely have to ride a large tractor in order to get to the facility.
“Everything you see as far as the eye can see all the way to town will be water,” Steward said.
Emergency officials are urging people in the area to be aware of the predicted flooding and avoid driving onto any flooded roadways.
Hall says he plans to bring his plan for increased fines to the County Council for discussion during their next meeting February 20.