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Flooding Causes Indiana Evacuations

August 6, 1998

MARION, Ind. (AP) _ Optimists hoped the town’s worst flooding in decades was over, knowing that residents were at the mercy of the skies and a levee weakened by a gaping hole.

Swollen by torrential rain _ 7 inches fell in seven hours _ the Mississinewa River jumped its banks Wednesday. The river forced families in 20 homes to seek higher ground, some escaping only with what they could haul out in a hurry.

Telista Glass fought back tears as she watched the rampaging waters creep closer to her home in Marion, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

``I don’t know what we’re going to do,″ she said Wednesday. Her 16-year-old daughter, Lydia, clutched her 6-month-old cats, Milo and Emily, to her chest and tried to calm her mother.

``I usually try to be strong for my family,″ Lydia said as relatives loaded clothes and valuables into a station wagon. ``My mom needs someone to be strong.″

A state of emergency was declared in the town of 33,000. The Red Cross set up a shelter at a middle school to house the displaced residents.

The water was receding late Wednesday but officials worried that more rain could threaten the levee, which already had a leaking 1-foot hole.

Another 1 to 2 inches of rain were forecast overnight Wednesday. Police, volunteers and the National Guard kept an eye on the levee.

Mike Spyers, the city’s director of public works, was among the optimists.

``As long as the river keeps going down, we’ll be all right,″ he said.

Police officers stood at intersections detouring traffic around swampy roads and washed-out bridges Wednesday after torrents spilled into the downtown business district.

``The next 48 hours or so are going to be tough,″ Mayor Ron Mowery said Wednesday from a perch on the levee’s lowest point. ``I’ve been with the city for 35 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.″

High water also threatened homes and businesses in the nearby communities of Alexandria, Warren and Geneva. Near the Marion neighborhood that was evacuated, police said the river rose 3 feet in six minutes at one point.

That didn’t give residents much time to gather their belongings. Lydia Glass took what she couldn’t live without _ her cats, and a pair of favorite stuffed animals.

``One’s a white teddy bear from my grandma,″ she explained. ``The other’s a blue bunny rabbit from one of my best friends.″

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