Soaking experience doesn't faze emergency official
Flood brings trying times for Vigo County agency
May 18, 2002
By Peter Ciancone
Dick Setliff got an early call Friday morning.
Lisa Bloesing, administrator at the Lakeview Nursing and Rehabilitation
Center, called at 4 a.m. to tell him that the lake they view was
beginning to leak into the building.
It was the start of another day in the life of the director of
the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency.
Things are a bit hectic these days. Heavy rains have flooded
many parts of the county, causing county officials to declare a
local emergency. Vigo County joined 14 other Indiana counties in
making that move.
Setliff helped bring in a couple of wet/dry vacuums to Lakeview
and recommended that residents be moved around within the facility.
That helped stem that tide -- for a while, anyway.
By daylight, there's time for a cup of coffee and something to
eat when another call comes in. This one is a bit more complicated.
Residents west of Battlerow Place in southwestern Vigo County
report that a neighbor had gone to Georgia, leaving pigs and dogs
on a piece of property surrounded by flooded fields.
To get to them, Setliff would need to use the agency's hovercraft,
and they would need some kind of protection from the possibility
that the dogs might not be happy to see them.
A sack of dry dog food would make the trip. A rifle would, too,
just in case. The hovercraft is stored at the agency's building
at Fourth and Farrington streets, so Setliff went there to hook
up and to grab warmer clothing. The passage of a cold front last
night had dropped temperatures into the 50s.
Ron Shaw, Vigo County Ordinance Control Officer, and Vigo County
Sheriff's Deputy William Harvey met Setliff at the spot where they
could put the craft into the water. Approaching noon, local residents
pointed out where the flood water was deepest. As the men discussed
their plans, a tractor came down the road and plowed through water
near its axle, providing a graphic view of the water level.
As the hovercraft was lowered into the flood water, the rain
started. Harvey wore a plastic cover on his flat-brimmed hat, Setliff
a military issue flight suit.
The three took off to the west to seek their site.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Jon Marvel sat in a squad car to communicate
between their trailer and the site. Within minutes of the hovercraft's
departure, the animals' owner, Kenneth Frakes, drove up.
He had been making daily trips out to his animals to see that
they were fed and safe.
False alarm, but Marvel couldn't recall Setliff and Harvey until
they got to where they were going. The roar of the hovercraft engine
wouldn't allow them to hear a radio call.
In less than half an hour, they were back, dripping with water,
looking like they swam to the site.
The hovercraft blows up a thick mist, Harvey said, admitting
that the joy of his first hovercraft ride had been offset by the
They left the food with the animals. The rifle had not been necessary.
Harvey cheerfully suggested he'd use it on Setliff if he brought
him out into that weather again.
By 2:30 p.m., Setliff was back at Lakeview. The wind picked up
out of the north, and the lake water was blowing into the facility,
forcing them to evacuate residents. Setliff stopped by to see how
the work was progressing, standing to the side as everything seemed
to be going smoothly.
By 4 p.m., Setliff was home, thinking of ways to fix a problem
that had developed with the hovercraft.
He said he wasn't planning to go dancing.