OTTAWA — Sheriff Mike Chandler is warning Putnam County residents that going around a “High Water-Road Closed” barricade is a crime. Although the Sheriff's Office rarely has ticketed residents for ignoring the barricades, Chandler said it may become necessary because drivers are doing it so much.
“We’ve had so many incidents of flooding that people are becoming complacent," Chandler said. He said many people will drive around barricades and go through water because they don’t want to take the extra time needed to take a detour.
“Unfortunately, often the water is deeper than they expect, and they are getting trapped in their car in high water,” Chandler said. He said the cold weather during last weekend’s flooding helped the Sheriff's Office's.
"Not as many people were out driving around or just sightseeing to see the flood waters because of the cold,” Chandler said. He is concerned about warmer weather and a flood advisory this week.
“Since after the flood of 2007, we have had 15 rescues of people in cars caught in high water,” Chandler said. Seven of those rescues included vehicles carrying children.
Chandler said three people have died in the county since 2007 after driving into high water.
“It’s very dangerous to get caught in moving water going across a road,” Chandler said. “It only takes a few inches of moving water to take your car off the road.”
Water sometimes washes the road out, Chandler said, and drivers don’t realize the water is much deeper in an area.
The sheriff said he plans to talk to trustees and county workers who put out high-water signs.
“I want them to also put out ‘road-closed’ signs when water is across the road in addition to high water signs," Chandler said.
Chandler recommends planning ahead ahead when there is a flood warning.
“We have had to do 11 rescues of people who were caught in their homes since 2007,” Chandler said. “Often times, it is people who chose not to leave their home despite the warnings and wait until it’s too late and there is water in their house, and they have no way to get out.”
“It’s important people use common sense when there is flooding. Don’t just go driving for sightseeing or make an unnecessary trip,” Chandler said. He also said high water it is not a time for recreational boating.
“Last week, it was 40 degrees outside, and I saw a couple of residents kayaking in the high water,” he said. “Hypothermia can set in so quickly if you are unexpectedly thrown into the water. It’s dangerous.”
Chandler wants residents to be safe when there is flooding.
“If I can just keep one person from driving into high waters, it’s important,” he said.
The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for Putnam County for late Thursday night and Friday morning. The weather service advised heavy rains, saturated soil and elevated river levels could lead to significant flooding.
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