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Floods of North-Central Indiana, July 2003—ONLINE ONLY

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Geological Survey

USGS Fact Sheet FS-094-03
Revised April 2004

 

This factsheet is available as a pdf.


Significant Items:

  • New peaks of record at 13 USGS streamflow-gaging stations in Indiana.
     
  • 100-Year-Flood discharges on Deer Creek, Iroquois River, Kokomo Creek, St. Marys River, and the Wabash River.
     
  • At White River at Noblesville, the water level exceeds the 1964 and 1991 record water levels by one-half foot, even though the July 2003 flood had 24 percent less discharge.
     
  • Potential overall impact of flood is lessened as large volumes of water are dispersed to different major river basins, rather than concentrated toward a single major stream.

The storm front that moved across large parts of Indiana during the afternoon and evening of July 4, 2003, was more than a precursor to that night's Independence Day fireworks. The showers at first were seen by Hoosiers as a welcome source of moisture for lawns, gardens, and cropland. This storm, however, turned out to be the opening salvo of a 2-week onslaught of torrential rains that resulted in record-breaking floods in many basins. The heaviest rains were concentrated in north-central Indiana, July 5-10.

 

During the 2 weeks of downpours, water filled flood plains, overtopped roadways, and poured into homes. While flood waters ravaged Indiana communities, field crews from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) raced to gather vital hydrologic data. They measured the river flow and water levels to provide the information needed by river forecasters, engineers, and emergency managers who rely on data from the USGS network of about 170 Indiana streamflow-gaging stations (fig. 1). The network is funded in a cooperative program of federal, State, and local agencies, and is part of a national network maintained by the USGS. Many of these stations are equipped to transmit real-time streamflow data. In times of emergency, real-time streamflow information is a key element in the protection of lives and property. Real-time data are available to the public on the World Wide Web at

 

http://in.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt

 

Map of U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations in Indiana, 2003.
Figure 1. Map of U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations in Indiana, 2003. Stations in red set new record-peak discharge or gage height in July 2003 flood.

 

New Peaks of Record

During the July 2003 floods, new records were set at 13 USGS streamflow-gaging stations in Indiana. The new peaks of record gage heights and new peaks of record discharges, along with other significant peaks, are listed in table1.

 

Discussion of the magnitude of the peaks follows.

Kokomo Creek and Wildcat Creek

Local news media reported nearly 10 inches of rain falling on the Kokomo area, July 4-5. The deluge flooded streets and backed up storm sewers. The runoff overwhelmed Kokomo Creek, a tributary to Wildcat Creek. The July 5 peak gage height at the gaging station Kokomo Creek near Kokomo (03333600) was 11.85 ft (feet), nearly 2 ft above the previous record set in 1964 (table 1). The peak discharge for the station was 2,950 ft3/s (cubic feet per second). This discharge was more than double the designated 100-year-flood discharge of 1,400 ft3/s. (A 100-year flood is that discharge for which there is a 1-percent chance of occurrence in any given year.) Coordinated flood frequencies for selected reaches of Indiana streams are available in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources online publication, Coordinated Discharges of Selected Streams in Indiana, at

 

http://www.state.in.us/dnr/water/surface_water/coordinated_discharges/

 

Upstream from Kokomo, Wildcat Creek near Jerome (03333450) peaked with a discharge in the range of a 30-year flood. Downstream from Kokomo, the peak discharge at Wildcat Creek at Owasco (03334000) was greater than a 100-year flood.

 


Table 1. Peaks for period of record and for July 2003 at selected U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations in Indiana
[ft, foot; ft3/s, cubic foot per second; --, no data; > , greater than; < , less than; S.O., stage-only gaging station, beginning October 1, 2001; red, sites where new peak recorded July 2003; elevation of water surface can be obtained by adding the station datum to the gage height]

Station number Station name Station
datum (ft)
Period of record,
in water years
a
Discharge peak of
record (ft3/s) through
2002  water year
Gage-height peak
of record (ft)
through  2002
water year
Gage-height (ft)
extreme outside
period of record
Date and time
of peak in
July 2003
Discharge
peak (ft3/s) in
July 2003
Gage-height
peak (ft) in
July 2003
Recurrence interval
03322900 Wabash River at Linn Grove, IN
808.00
1965-2003
9,560 March 17, 1978
13.87 March 17, 1978
--
July 8 0500
14,500
14.76
>100 year
03322985 Wabash River near Bluffton, IN
795.42
2002-2003
4,640 April 1, 2002
12.88 April 1, 2002
--
July 9
15,300
18.43
60 year
03323500 Wabash River at Huntington, IN
700.04
1951-2003
S.O.
23.20 February 10, 1959
22.7 March 1913
July 11 0600
Unknown
19.37
--
03325000 Wabash River at Wabash, IN
642.66
1923-2003
49,600 May 18, 1943
24.44 February 11, 1959
28.7 March 26, 1913
July 7 1100
14,800d
16.58d
< 10 year
03329000 Wabash River at Logansport, IN
573.28
1923-2003b
89,800 May 18, 1943
21.32 May 18, 1943
25.3 March 26, 1913
July 7 1200
37,100
13.60
< 10 year
03329700 Deer Creek near Delphi, IN
553.81
1944-2003
14,400 June 10, 1958
18.26 June 10, 1958
19.8 May 1943
July 5 2130
18,700d
18.64
>100 yeard
03331753 Tippecanoe River at Winamac, IN
674.19
2001-2003
4,600 May 16, 2002
11.48 May 16, 2002
--
July 11 0900
3,110
9.53
< 10 year
03333050 Tippecanoe River near Delphi, IN
535.00
1939-2003b
20,600 April 12, 1994
13.72 April 12, 1994
--
July 10 0800
18,500
12.80
10 year
03333450 Wildcat Creek near Jerome, IN
820.04
1961-2003
7,120 July 14, 1992
13.71 December 30, 1990
18 March 1913
July 6 0015
7,160d
14.35
30 year
03333600 Kokomo Creek near Kokomo, IN
807.68
1959-2003
1,040 April 20, 1964
9.88 April 20, 1964
--
July 5 0630
2,950d
11.85d
>100 year
03333700 Wildcat Creek at Kokomo, IN
775.62
1956-2003
8,100 February 10, 1959
16.95 December 30, 1990
--
July 5 1115
9,500d
17.75
50 yeard
03334000 Wildcat Creek at Owasco, IN
624.63
1944-1973,
1989-2003c
10,800  January 4, 1980
13.30 January 5, 1950
--
July 6 0800
19,300
16.22
>100 year
03335000 Wildcat Creek near Lafayette, IN
527.66
1954-2003
25,000 June 10, 1958
21.52 June 10, 1958
25.4 March 1913
July 7 0000
23,500
23.64
30 year
03335500 Wabash River at Lafayette, IN
504.14
1924-2003b
131,000 May 19, 1943
28.47 May 19, 1943
32.9 March 26, 1913
July 10 1800
80,000
25.05
30 year
03336000 Wabash River at Covington, IN
473.97
1940-2003
147,000 May 20, 1943
32.44 May 20, 1943
35.1 March 1913
July 11 1000
89,000
28.90
30 year
03340500 Wabash River at Montezuma, IN
457.75
1928-2003
184,000 May 20, 1943
32.83 May 20, 1943
34.0 March 27, 1913
July 12 0900
109,000d
30.43d
15 year
03341500 Wabash River at Terre Haute, IN
445.78
1928-2003b
189,000 May 20, 1943
30.50 May 20, 1943
31.2 March 27, 1913
July 13 1900
96,200d
25.03d
< 10 yeard
03347000 White River at Muncie, IN
917.10
1931-2003
14,300 April 21, 1964
21.07 January 15, 1937
22.6 March 1913
July 10 1000
6,950
10.94
< 10 year
03349000 White River at Noblesville, IN
738.16
1947-2003
27,000 December 31, 1990
21.31 April 22, 1964
--
July 10 1550
20,400
21.86
10 year
03351000 White River near Nora, IN
710.94
1930-2003
32,400 May 19, 1943
19.19 January 1, 1991
22.4 March 26, 1913
July 11 0100
26,300d
17.78
10 year
03353000 White River at Indianapolis, IN
662.26
1930-2003b
38,000 December 31, 1990
21.57 January 16, 1937
30.0 March 26, 1913
July 11 0300
27,900
17.19
< 10 year
03354000 White River near Centerton, IN
595.44
1947-2003b
50,500 April 22, 1964
18.38 December 31, 1990
22.8 March 1913
July 12 0600
37,800d
17.01d
< 10 year
03360500 White River at Newberry, IN
465.59
1928-2003
105,000 November 18, 1993
25.87 November 18, 1993
27.5 March 27, 1913
July 15 2000
34,800
20.35
< 10 year
03374000 White River at Petersburg, IN
400.00
1928-2003
183,000 January 22, 1937
28.30 January 22, 1937
29.5 March 1913
July 18 0400
48,800
20.97
< 10 year
03377500 Wabash River at Mount Carmel, IL
369.46
1928-2003b
305,000 May 25, 1943
32.35 May 17, 2002
33.0 March 30, 1913
July 20 0900
117,000
24.85
< 10 year
04181500 St. Marys River at Decatur, IN
760.44
1947-2003
11,300 February 10, 1959
24.40 March 14, 1982
--
July 9 0800
15,000d
26.92
> 100 year
04182000 St. Marys River near Fort Wayne, IN
748.97
1931-2003
13,600 February 11, 1959
19.66 March 14, 1982
--
July 9 2300
16,000d
21.20
100 year
04183000 Maumee River at New Haven, IN
724.51
1957-2003b
26,600 March 17, 1982
25.49 March 17, 1982
--
July 10 0900
19,400
21.57d
<  10 year
05521000 Iroquois River at Rosebud, IN
661.47
1948-2003
656 December 30, 1990
8.86 February 10, 1959
--
July 21 1615
475
6.30
100 year
05522500 Iroquois River at Rensselaer, IN
642.29
1948-2003
2,550 June 10, 1958
16.54 June 10, 1958
--
July 10 1200
2,620d
16.59d
>100 yeard
05524500 Iroquois River near Foresman, IN
624.00
1949-2003
5,930 June 14, 1958
24.42 June 14, 1958
--
July 11d
5,350d
24.87
Backwatere

 

a Water year is the 12-month period October 1 through September 30. The 2003 water year, for example, includes October 1, 2002, through September 30, 2003.
b Fragmented periods of data exist for other years.
c The data include annual peaks for 1975-1981.
d Revised.
e Backwater is the condition when water is backed up or retarded in its course, compared with its normal condition of flow.


 

St. Marys River

The St. Marys River at Decatur gaging station (04181500) recorded the peak gage height on July 9 at more than 2.5 ft above the previous peak of record in March 1982. The discharge was greater than a 100-year flood. Even though the St. Marys River peaked at the St. Marys near Fort Wayne gaging station (04182000) at more than 1.5 ft above the 1982 flood level and the discharge was in the range of the 100-year flood, the city of Fort Wayne was spared a repeat of the 1982 devastation. In July 2003, the St. Joseph River, which flows from the north to join the St. Marys River to form the Maumee River, did not receive excessive amounts of precipitation. Consequently, the July 10 peak discharge at the Maumee River at New Haven gaging station (04183000) was less than a 10-year flood.

Wabash River

The July 8 crest at the Wabash River at Linn Grove gaging station (03322900) set new records. The peak gage height of 14.76 ft was almost 1 ft above the previous peak of record in March 1978.   The peak discharge of 14,500 ft3/s was greater than a 100-year discharge.

 

The heavy rains generated a surge of water flowing down the upper reaches of the Wabash River, as indicated by the flows at Linn Grove. Much of this surge was captured in J. Edward Roush Lake in Huntington. The peak discharges on July 7 were less than a 10-year flood at Wabash River at Wabash (03325000) and Wabash River at Logansport (03329000), about 22 and 55 miles, respectively, downstream from the lake. Farther downstream, the Wabash River at Lafayette gaging station (03335500) peaked on July 10 with discharges in the 30-year-flood range. The Wabash River at Covington gaging station (03336000) peaked on July 11 with discharges also in the 30-year-flood range.

 

The peaks attenuated as the flows continued downstream. At the Wabash River at Montezuma gaging station (03340500), where local police assisted USGS field crews in launching their boat, the river peaked on July 12 with discharges in the 15-year-flood range. The Wabash River at Terre Haute gaging station (03341500) peaked on July 13 with discharge a little less than a 10-year-flood.

 

Although the initial surge of water from the upper reaches of the Wabash River Basin was captured by J. Edward Roush Lake, continued large flows into the lake required lake managers to release water when the lake's holding capacity had been exceeded. The stage-only gaging station, Wabash River at Huntington (03323500), just below the outflow structure of the lake, recorded a peak gage height of 19.37 ft on July 11. This was the highest water level since the peak of record, 23.20 ft, February 10, 1959, which was prior to construction of the reservoir.

Deer Creek

The media reported loss of life in the Delphi area when high waters flooded homes and neighborhoods. At the Deer Creek near Delphi gaging station (03329700), the July 5 peak gage height of 18.64 ft exceeded the previous record peak of 18.26 ft, set in June 1958. The peak discharge of 18,700 ft3/s was greater than a 100-year flood.

 

The Wabash River floods major roadways near the town of Bluffton, Indiana.
The Wabash River floods major roadways near the town of Bluffton, Indiana.

 

The Wabash River rises near the town of Montezuma, Indiana.
The Wabash River rises near the town of Montezuma, Indiana.


U.S. Geological Survey streamgager is shin deep in the Iroquois River

U.S. Geological Survey streamgager is shin deep in the Iroquois River
as she inspects the gage near Foresman, Indiana.

 

Kokomo Creek flows over the bridge in the town of Kokomo, Indiana, as a U.S. Geological Survey streamgager prepares to make a discharge measurement.
Kokomo Creek flows over the bridge in the town of Kokomo, Indiana, as a
U.S. Geological Survey streamgager prepares to make a discharge measurement.

Iroquois River

In the Iroquois River Basin, on the western side of the State, peaks gained in magnitude as flows moved downstream. The July 9 discharge at the Iroquois River at Rosebud gaging station (05521000) was in the range of a 40-year flood. By the time the Iroquois River peaked at the Rensselaer gaging station (05522500) on July 10, discharges were greater than a 100-year-flood, eclipsing the June 1958 discharge. At the Iroquois River near Foresman gaging station (05524500), roads were submerged as water pooled up in the area faster than it could be drained, causing significant backwater conditions. Local citizens using large trucks, assisted USGS field crews by transporting them to the gaging station. The July 11 peak gage height at Foresman reached 24.87 ft, nearly one-half foot above the previous peak of record set in June 1958.

 

Intense rainfall several days later in the Wheatfield area caused the Iroquois River at Rosebud gaging station to peak on July 21 in the range of a 100-year- flood discharge. The effects of that later storm, however, seemed to lessen as the flow moved to the downstream stations.

White River

In parts of Marion and Hamilton Counties, large tracts of land along with homes and businesses were inundate by White River flood waters. At the White River at Muncie gaging station (03347000), the July 10 peak discharge was less than a 10-year flood. Downstream, peak discharges at White River at Noblesville (03349000) and White River near Nora (03351000) gaging stations were in the 10-year-flood range. Farther downstream, the peak discharges diminished to less than a 10-year flood.

 

At the White River at Noblesville gaging station, a new record gage height was reached, even though the discharge was in the range of a 10-year flood. The previous peak-of-record gage height was on April 22, 1964, when the gage height reached 21.31 ft, with a discharge of 26,800 ft3/s. The peak-of-record discharge, 27,000 ft3/s, was on December 31, 1990, when the gage height reached 21.29 ft. On July 10, 2003, the stream peaked at a discharge of 20,400 ft3/s, with a new record gage height of 21.86 ft. Even though the peak discharge for the most recent flood was about 24 percent less than the two previous record peaks, the gage height crested about one-half foot higher.

Distribution of Flood Waters

The July 2003 flood was notable not only in the magnitude of the peaks but also in the number of separate basins affected. By the end of July, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (http://www.fema.gov) listed 40 Indiana counties as declared disaster areas. Although the destruction caused by the flooding was significant, the geographic patterns of the precipitation resulted in the dispersal of large volumes of water, thus averting a concentration of the runoff toward a single receiving stream. The flood waters of the Iroquois River drained west toward the Illinois River, and the flood waters on the St. Marys River drained east into Ohio by way of the Maumee River. The upper Wabash River and upper White River drained south, with the peaks attenuating as they moved downstream into areas where there had been less rainfall.

 

By Donald V. Arvin, Hieu T. Nguyen, and L. Mark Huff

For more information, please contact:

District Chief

U.S. Geological Survey

5957 Lakeside Boulevard

Indianapolis, IN 46278

317-290-3333

Fax: (317) 290-3313

E-mail: dc_in@usgs.gov

Additional information can be found by accessing the Indiana District Home Page on the World Wide Web at

http://in.water.usgs.gov


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