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Levees Fighting Rising Tides

Last updated on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(VIGO COUNTY) - As river levels rise across the Wabash Valley folks living near levees are on alert.

Matt Gregory of WTHI reports that several breaches have already happened across the area. With more rain on the way, how do these earthen dams keep Hoosiers safe from the mighty Wabash?

Judging from the sandbags along the stretch of the Wabash River's levee near Prarieton, you can tell the levees are reaching their limits.

But as the water trickles through the earthen wall, it's still protecting farms and houses from the flood waters.

"Back when they were originally constructed they were offset to allow the stream to flow some within it's own banks," Eddy Adams of the USDA Natural Resources field office said. "But the idea is to pretty much capture the flow and protect the property on the outside of the levee."

When you hear about levee failures you may think the soil walled property protectors are not carefully planned out.

But, construction of levees requires a careful creation. First, the nearby soil used has to be tested. The test confirms the compact soil wall is not only strong, but difficult for water to pass through and saturate.

However, that doesn't mean they are by any means perfect.

Two things can happen when the flood levels rise as high as they have in the Wabash Valley this week. The first is that the water can come up to the wall and go over the levee. That's certainly not good for the nearby property owner, but not as bad as the second option.

If the levee gets saturated with too much water it can get weak spots. As the river continues to rise those weak spots can burst and cause the levee to break.

That's what sends the flood waters bursting free of its boundaries, running across roads, and flooding neighborhoods across the Wabash Valley.

Monday was sunny and emergency workers worked to fight the rising tide, but the rest of the week isn't quite clear and any new rain could be devastating.

"With this long term duration of saturation, ill be surprised if there aren't other levees that are weakened, whether they are actually breached or not, hopefully not," Adams said. "Ultimately they will do their job and support, but I think people need to be aware of their surroundings."

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