The rain started at about 5:10 Monday afternoon and when the deluge finished at around 6:30 p.m. local gauges would show that about 8 to 10 inches of water had hit the town.
According to Superintendent Bill Hochgesang, five inches of rain fell in about 30 minutes.
Water filled the intersection of Main and Fourth streets creating a lake from across the parking lot of the Dubois Intermediate School up both streets. Water lapped up the stairs at One Moore and ran into the Chuckles at the corner across the street — while bar and grill opened up to serve food on Tuesday, the gas station closed.
Ryan Case, principal at the Intermediate School, explained that the portion of the school housing the kitchen area, gymnasium, archery range, and community rooms as well as storage in the basement, is in the bottom of a bowl. Water from the surrounding high areas rushed down across the softball field and filled the back of the school. It ran under the breezeway that connects the classroom and administrative offices to the gymnasium. It filled the basement of the lower section of the school and when freezers in the kitchen floated up, they struck and broke the sprinklers in the ceiling adding insult to injury as the clear water flowed into the rising muddy water.
Books and school materials floated out of the building as the water pushed open the doors to the platform entrance to the gymnasium.
Superintendent Bill Hochgesang estimated for the water to have reached up the steps into the gymnasium it likely was at least 10 to 12 feet deep in some areas.
When he heard about the flooding Monday evening, he drove in to see what could be done but was stopped by the high water. “I had to wait about thirty minutes for the water to go down enough for me to get here (school),” Hochgesang said.
Meanwhile, the decision was made to move the school to elearning for Tuesday. The water knocked out the phone and internet to the intermediate school which also serves as the hub for the nearby Dubois Elementary School and the Northeast Dubois Corporation offices. Phones remained down most of Tuesday and calls went straight to voicemail.
As the water receded, volunteers from the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department, Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District, and Dubois Utilities showed up with pump trucks to dewater the school basement. Annette Moore from One Moore Bar and Grill provided food and water for the volunteers as they worked through the night to pump the water out.
Tuesday morning, administrative, janitorial and other school staff showed up to assess the damage and begin cleanup. Structural engineers were called in to assess the stability of the building. According to Hochgesang, there is a wall that has been pushed in and they need to determine if it is load-bearing.
“We’re making sure the structure is safe,” he explained.
The eastern portion of the building had water enter the basement through ground-level windows as well but Hochgesang said they are hopeful that the corporation can have classes start back up in the building. “Our hope is that we can utilize this area, close this (gymnasium) off as long as we have to,” he explained.
The school corporation can bus kids up to the high school for PE and other needs. The damage to the kitchen is extensive. “The challenging part will be feeding them,” Hochgesang said. “You know, we’ve got incredible kitchen staff. They will likely provide sack lunches to students in classes here.”
The building will remain closed until at least next Tuesday, September 7. The kitchen staff will have meals available for pickup for the 240 students in grades three through six that attend Northeast Dubois Intermediate School while they are out for elearning.
Students and Northeast Dubois Elementary and Northeast Dubois Jr/Sr. High School will return to school on Wednesday, September 1.
Hochgesang recalled a flood had occurred several years earlier. “This was back when I was principal and I’ve been superintendent for 10 years,” he said. “We had a big rain one afternoon but we were able to clean it up ourselves. We had water in the basement but we were able to take care of it ourselves.”
“But this, this is just beyond…,” he trailed off as he gestured to the soaked building and yellow tape covering the doors.
“Northeast Dubois extends a huge “Thank You”, to all the volunteers that helped us Monday evening, especially Dubois Fire Fighters, Dubois Water, Patoka Lake Water, and One Moore Bar & Grill for supplying the volunteers with food and water.“