Flood warning extended through Thursday, road department begins to assess damage

BERRIEN COUNTY — The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning through Thursday night for the St. Joseph River areas in Berrien and Cass counties. A warning indicates that flooding will occur or has already occurred and that residents in the area should remain vigilant.

In response to the rising waters, Berrien County Emergency Management released a statement Wednesday morning asking residents to be have a 72-hour supply of water, medications and essential items prepared, in case they need to leave their home.

The Berrien County Health Department recommended that residents with wells take precautions to assure that their water has not been contaminated. They advised that if the well head is damaged, compromised, or has been submerged in flood water, residents should immediately discontinue use of the well water for drinking, cooking, and/or bathing and should use bottled water until their well system is safe for use again.

At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Berrien County Road Department Director Jason Latham said employees at the road commission were debriefing and planning to assess the road’s conditions.

“[We are] hitting the ground looking to assess the damage,” Latham said. “We are getting plans together and trying to figure out how we are going to repair the roads that we know have been washed out. There is a lot going on, that is for sure.”

Latham said at least three culverts had been completely washed due to high waters. Culverts are pipes made of concrete or plastic that are meant to carry water from one side to the other. They are designed to handle a maximum amount of water.

A number of other roads were closed due to high water. Barricades were installed and travelers were advised to follow detours. Latham said emergency personnel had been notified about the road blockades and detours.

As of Wednesday, Latham said there was not an estimate as to the cost of damage to repair roads. A full list of road closures can be found at bcroad.org.

Niles Township:

Niles Township Supervisor Jim Stover said two roads were closed in the township due to flooding, including S. 16th Street between Fulkerson and Florence streets and Bond Street from Bell Road to Bertrand Street. Stover said he had not heard of any residents displaced as of Wednesday afternoon. He did say that many residents had complained about the road conditions and the number potholes, which have been exacerbated by the rain and temperature fluctuations this week.

Niles Waste Water Treatment Plant, 21 Marmont St.

Plant Superintendent Derek Gordon said that water treatment facility was operating as normal, just processing more water. He said a retention basin, which is intended to protect the plant from flood water, has helped to remediate the excess water that has run off the river.

Gordon commended the work of his team at the plant.

“There is an outstanding crew down here,” Gordon said. “They really care about their strong work ethics and they care about protecting the water and the river. They love their jobs.”

Niles Lakeland Hospital, 31 N. St. Joseph St.:

The Niles Lakeland Hospital operations were not impacted by flooding Wednesday. Jessica Springer, the public relations specialist, said the only issue was some flooding in the building’s back parking lot. That back lot is typically where surgery patients enter the hospital. Surgery patients were advised to use the front hospital entrance instead.

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