Post-flood work starts for Bloomington government, businesses

Looking north up the alley next to Village Deli. These hoses are connected to pumps that are emptying the Village Deli’s basement of six feet of water.

Between 5 and 7 inches of rain fell on Bloomington on Friday night through early Saturday.

That meant thigh- to waist-deep water pooled on Kirkwood Avenue before flowing southward.

In the mid-morning hours on Saturday, business owners along Kirkwood were starting the work of clean up and damage assessment.

The flood outside the Village Deli on Kirkwood last night meant the basement was filled with six feet of water on Saturday morning. Owner Bob Costello told The B Square he hopes to be back open in a week. But it will mean replacing the point-of-sale computer server, which was swamped by the floodwaters.

According to a press release from the city of Bloomington, the flood damage inside the city was centered on the blocks of Kirkwood Avenue just west of the Indiana University Sample Gates.

The release says, “Flooding inside the city appears to be concentrated in the downtown area, specifically Kirkwood Avenue between Indiana Avenue and Washington Street.”

The city’s press release also states that emergency responders for the city performed 17 water rescues on Friday night through Saturday morning.

According to a Facebook post, the city of Bloomington’s Juneteenth celebration at Switchyard Park is still on for Saturday, but with a delayed start time.  It will now start at 3:30 p.m.

On Saturday morning, Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill issued a press release warning about the health risks associated with floods.

The release alerts people to “slippery conditions, poor visibility, floating debris, or electrical shock.” The release from the county health department adds: “In addition, small cuts or scratches on the skin can make someone more susceptible to diseases like tetanus, E. coli, and other pathogens.”

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Also Saturday, Bloomington’s deputy mayor Don Griffin, with public engagement director Mary Catherine Carmichael, were walking the length of Kirkwood, from Walnut Street towards Indiana Avenue to touch base with business owners.

Griffin told The B Square they wanted to check in to see what, if anything, the city could do to lend a hand.

The pair was intercepted along the way by WRTV Channel 6 out of Indianapolis, which was on hand to film the damage for its viewers.

Maybe an hour earlier, public works director Adam Wason made the rounds to businesses as well. By the time Griffin and Carmichael made it to the eastern end of Kirkwood, a Bloomington public works sanitation truck had arrived to haul away some of the soggy refuse that business owners had piled together.

Wason showed The B Square a cell-phone photo he’d taken of an automobile that had been lifted by the floodwater onto the tops of the yellow bollards at Dunn Street and Kirkwood Avenue. It was a challenge for the tow truck to maneuver the car off the bollards, Wason said.

The removable bollards have been used for the past few months to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating onto the street, as part of Bloomington’s effort to help the business community recover from the pandemic.

The heavy rains on Friday, meant that the Campus River (previously known as the Jordan River)—which normally flows hidden from view under downtown Bloomington—could be seen and heard.

That’s because the culvert is being renovated this summer by Milestone Contractors, as part of the Hidden River project. So a short segment of the culvert, at Smith Avenue and Lincoln Street, is exposed to daylight.

Normally the culvert runs completely underground from Dunn Meadow at Indiana Avenue to 1st Street and College Avenue, where the waterway re-emerges above ground.

On Saturday, from the corner of Lincoln Street and Smith Avenue, it was possible to glimpse the “river” that is normally hidden. Absent a heavy rain, the flow is normally more like a trickle.

The work on about 1,829 feet worth of culvert by Milestone and city of Bloomington utilities, which started this spring, is supposed to take around two years. The project is called the Hidden River Project.