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Photo gallery: The Flood of 1982

For a week in March 1982, the nation's eyes were focused on Fort Wayne when a major flood, the likes of which the city had seen only once before, tore through its heart. Heavy winter snow accumulations, a rapid early-March thaw, and rain combined to cause the flooding. When it was over, about 9,000 people had fled their homes. Damage reached $56.1 million. Heroic rescue efforts and a massive group of volunteer sandbaggers led to Fort Wayne becoming known as The City That Saved Itself.

Firefighters bring a flooded West Main Street family to dry land. The view is from the West Main Street bridge looking west.
Kay Burns carries her grandmother's dog as Robert Zehendner grabs a suitcase and cane after being evacuated from a house at 1306 Elm St.
In addition to closing businesses, the high waters closed off one of the city's main streets: Clinton, the major artery from the north side of town. The city was able to reopen Spy Run Avenue and Lafayette Street and temporarily converted them into two-way traffic.
Water from the St. Marys River flows over sandbags at the corner of Camp Allen Drive and Elm Street in Fort Wayne's Nebraska neighborhood.
Firefighters rescue a West Main Street resident.
Rich Frisby waits for help atop a car in the 100 block of West Main Street. Frisby declined to leave during the initial evacuation. He was at a friend's apartment on West Main Street, where a porch party was in progress. But he and his friends eventually agreed to vacate the area.
Leaving home was difficult for some people. An unidentified man at 1330 Burgess St. decided to try to wait out the waters on March 14. It's not known if he was later evacuated.
Roger Walker rescued his dog Sadie from his girlfriend's house at 1154 W. Main St. after wading two blocks in chest-deep water. Walker and a friend initially wouldn't leave the house for fear of theft. They finally were persuaded to leave, but Walker had to go back for Sadie.
Ella Hardiek (pictured) and her 92-year-old mother were given five minutes to grab things and leave when a dike near their Mechanic Street home broke. "They gave them five minutes to get ... out," her brother Ed Hardiek said. On Sunday, Ella and Ed went back to the house to get their mother's medicine.
Using a board as a paddle, a Fort Wayne resident floats through the Nebraska neighborhood.
Residents boat down West Superior Street past car repair shop Fox & Fox's famous giant tire, center, which would later have the high-water line painted on it. The tire was eventually moved to a stand adjacent to the automotive shop, and a high-water marker took its place.
Residents leave their flooded Nebraska neighborhood homes on March 14, 1982. This view is from the West Main Street bridge looking west. Being resourceful, the people in the second boat are using snow shovels as paddles.
An aerial view shows the St. Marys River overflowing Camp Allen Drive in the West Main Street area on March 14. West Main Street runs vertically through the photo, heading downtown at the top.
Rescuers take flooded West Main Street residents to dry land on March 14. The view is from the West Main Street bridge looking west.
Not sure whether her daughter and son-in-law had been safely evacuated from their Watkins Avenue home, an unidentified woman waits on the edge of the rescue area.
Massive flooding in the Summit City allowed these fish to swim down Spy Run Avenue. But as water was pumped from the area, allowing traffic to resume, the fish reached a dead end.
A view of downtown, with a flooded Sherman Boulevard and Sherman Bridge in the foreground.
A view of the Nebraska neighborhood looking west. The West Main Street bridge is in the lower-right corner.
An aerial view of downtown Fort Wayne early the morning of March 15. The photo shows what is now Headwaters Park looking southwest. Historic Fort Wayne is at left, and the Clinton Street Bridge heading downtown is in the lower right.
This may be the world's largest water hazard: In the center is the flooded Lakeside Golf Course. Coliseum Boulevard, foreground, looks more like a bridge than a street, while the Maumee River lower right, meanders toward the east.
Not everyone in Allen County found the flood to be a problem. This girl seems to enjoy her free ride through the water to her Riverhaven home.
Spy Run Avenue and Lafayette Street were switched to two-way traffic by Monday of the flood, to accommodate vehicles that ordinarily would have used flooded streets. Historic Fort Wayne is in the middle left of the photo.
Flooded Superior Street, running vertically in the middle of the picture, is framed by railroad tracks on the left and the St. Marys River on the right. In the right foreground is the McCulloch Bridge (new Wells Street Bridge).
A mostly submerged basketball post in Swinney Park gives an idea of how high the water rose in the west-central part of the city.
A boat is tied to the front porch of a flooded house in the West Main Street area.
Residents transfer salvaged items from their canoe to a vehicle during a late-night evacuation.
The Rev. David Gaskill, pastor of Faith United Church of Christ, had been working almost nonstop at the coliseum's sandbagging operation, where he'd been made a line foreman. By Tuesday of the flood, he'd been at it all but 10 hours. Here he catches a few minutes of rest.
Fire Lt. Gil Smith, right, and Pvt. Richard Taylor, left, of Fire Station No. 9 inform Mike and Karen Richardville of 1105 N. Anthony Blvd. that they will have to evacuate. The Richardvilles planned to stay with relatives.
Sandbaggers work to contain a break in a barricade at Lake Avenue and Randallia Drive in front of Lakeside Middle School. The lake on Lake was formed when water backed through a 72-inch storm sewer.
The Red Cross helps evacuate the Thompson family from its home. The Thompsons grabbed a box of prized possessions, including photographs and a teddy bear.
Employees of the Chevrolet dealership on East State Boulevard monitor the water levels outside during a nighttime vigil.
Kids try to peek into Precious Blood School for a glimpse of President Reagan, who was at the school during a tour to survey flood damage in Fort Wayne.
The gymnasium at Precious Blood School held more reporters than evacuees after President Reagan surveyed the destruction that Fort Wayne's swollen rivers caused. Much of the president's time was spent signing autographs.
President Reagan's car got a thumbs-up as he toured the city to view firsthand the flooding problems.
President Reagan met with volunteer workers stacking sandbags at Herman Street and Sherman Boulevard as he toured the city to view firsthand Fort Wayne's flooding problems. The president even got into the act himself, tossing a couple of sandbags on the pile.
Fort Wayne Mayor Win Moses Jr., in the light-colored jacket in the center, repeatedly appeared on television to tell of the urgent need for volunteers. Later in the week, President Reagan, shown here surrounded by Secret Service agents, told a crowd at Baer Field "how much their neighbors in the country feel for them and how concerned we are."
President Reagan, wearing boots he borrowed from an area farmer, passes a sandbag to a line of volunteers near the dike at Sherman Boulevard and Herman Street late Tuesday afternoon.
Throughout the long night, volunteer workers at Memorial Coliseum continued filling sandbags in a desperate attempt to hold back the three rivers.
JoAnn Chalmers' posters praise God, the Red Cross, firefighters and the police at her home at 1306 W. Main St. The cars in front of her home were submerged nearly to the roofline, and the apartment below hers was badly flooded.
As the president's plane prepared to touch down in Fort Wayne, a tornado was seen to the south of the airport.
Fort Wayne residents survey the new look of their neighborhood.
Row upon row of cars ring Memorial Coliseum (along with a line of school buses in lower left) as volunteers arrive to help in the sandbagging effort.
Looking south, this aerial photo shows the extent of the downtown flooding.
A crew of volunteers pass sandbags up to the top of the Pemberton dike.
Ray Lawson shored up his home on Waverly Avenue with dirt scooped from his lawn. He said if the water got any higher, he would leave, as did many Riverhaven residents.
Volunteers get refreshments at the Pemberton dike area near Cody Street.
Dick Limburg and Sally Pallsen help move Kari Towns of 1505 E. Columbia Ave. after the area was ordered evacuated March 17.
Water, mud and sandbags were plentiful all over town.
Volunteers pass sandbags along the Pemberton dike on Wednesday morning. Weather forecasts were calling for an inch or more of rain.
Floodwaters from the St. Joseph River heavily damaged the electrical distribution system at Walb Memorial Union on the IPFW campus.
The flood didn't keep St. Patrick's Day revelers from green beer at O'Sullivan's Pub, 1808 W. Main St.
An unidentified boy strains to lift a sandbag at the Pemberton dike.
Richard Harvey, front, and Frank Conner salvage items from Conner's Riverhaven home on McBride Avenue.
A view from the Pemberton dike. Although the neighborhood was saved, much of the area around the dike was littered with pumps, barrels and sandbags.
Workers pass sandbags to shore up the Pemberton dike. No one was sure if it would hold.
At one point, the leaking Pemberton Dike showed signs of giving way, leading these workers to scramble to a waiting truck to avoid a possible collapse.
An employee of General Telephone checks out the flooded northeast division office at 525 Tecumseh Ave.
A parking meter sticks out the water of a flooded downtown street.
The Pemberton dike became a mass of sandbags, volunteers and huge pumps to help keep the water out of the Lakeside neighborhood.
Workers refused to give up efforts to save homes along Pemberton Drive, where a sandbag barrier was built against houses and garages.
News-Sentinel reporter Brian Smith, right, talkes with workers at Poinsatte Motors, 200 S. Clinton St.
Fifteen automobiles in Poinsatte Motors' new-car showroom at 200 S. Clinton St. were partially submerged, even though they had been driven atop sandbags.
Karen Hall, an employee of Poinsatte Motors, 200 S. Clinton St., rescues a drawer of supplies from the rising floodwaters.
Weary volunteers rest on a wall of sandbags.
Jeff Glock shoots a basketball and Steve Wild awaits the rebound during a brief respite from sandbagging. The two Snider High School basketball players took this opportunity to practice while waiting for another truck carrying sandbags to arrive at the Pemberton dike.
Boys rest atop a wall of sandbags.
The whole community, especially teens, joined together to help save homes from the flood.
The backyards of 904 Pemberton Drive, at left, and 824 Pemberton Drive, lower right, are covered with sandbags after workers reinforced the dike to try to keep the water from coming under it.
The Tennessee Avenue Bridge stayed above water, as well as the dike along Griswold Drive (shown along the St. Joseph River through the center of the photo), keeping the Spy Run neighborhood mostly dry.
A view of the Nebraska neighborhood, looking east toward downtown. The West Main Street bridge is in the upper left.
The owner of this house at 1240 Elm St. wanted to direct all guests to the rear of his house. Perhaps the back door was elevated?
This dog, left behind at 1234 Boone St. when its owners were forced to evacuate, shows its gratitude to its rescuers, Suzanne Aldrich, left, and Donna Straub. Mainly by canoe, they and team member Larry Fields saved about 40 animals from evacuated homes.
A group of volunteers takes a break from hoisting sandbags.
A view of Elm Street, looking west toward the St. Marys River and Swinney Park foot bridge.
George Brinkman, of 4017 Elm St., one of the first residents back in the area, works to clear a drain. Soon after the photo was taken, Brinkman succeeded and the water disappeared down the sewer.
River levels in Fort Wayne finally began to stop by Friday, March 19, but the threat of more rain offered little rest for these volunteers, who patrolled the Pemberton Dike that night.
An exhausted sandbagger takes a break on the dike along Niagara Drive at Pemberton Drive.
Fort Wayne residents who didn't heft sandbags helped in many other ways, including donating clothes for flood victims to the Salvation Army.
Volunteers pass sandbags up to the dike at Pemberton and Niagara drives. (The garage at left is 804 Pemberton.)
Mike Ruiz, of 515 Cherry St., returned with a water-vacuum cleaner to remove three inches of water from his apartment. "I was pretty lucky," he said.
Volunteers pile sandbags at the corner of Pemberton and Niagara drives in their effort to save the Lakeside neighborhood.
Sandbags from the Pemberton dike engulf a garage. Sandbaggers widened the base of the sandbag wall into the yard in order to stop the water that was seeping under the dike.
News-Sentinel reporter Jim Quinn checks out a failed dike as he works to document the city's flooding.
Even in the face of adversity, most Fort Wayne residents kept a sense of humor.
Although floodwaters continued to drop on Saturday, enough water remained trapped in sandbag-lined Fairmount Place to reflect the nearby houses. These residences were just north of the St. Marys River near Sherman Boulevard.
The intersection of Pemberton Drive and Cody Avenue was blocked by three huge pumps working to keep the water on the other side of the dike and not backing up through the storm sewer manhole, at center of photo.
Deb Dunwiddie, a first-grade teacher at Nebraska Elementary School, cleaned mud from her classroom on March 20.
Residents watch water from their homes being pumped out into the street as the floodwaters subside.
Ruined floor covering is piled outside the home of Cheryl Fryback, 1223 Elm St., after friends and relatives pitched in to help clean her kitchen on Sunday afternoon.
A resident displays a sign of gratitude for the sandbaggers' efforts.
Everything, even the tiles on the floor, was removed from rooms of Bethany Presbyterian Church, 1616 W. Main St. (Now United Faith Presbyterian). The church's first floor was covered with 5 feet of water at the peak of the flood.
Ed Hawkins, a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church, was one of about 30 volunteers who helped clean debris and mud from the church.
Jonathan Sauer helped his father, Richard, clean up two rental properties at 1130 and 1134 Camp Allen Drive. The elder Sauer quipped, "This is one way to evict renters."
Volunteers pass sandbags to build a dike to hold back the floodwaters.
This unidentified woman said she had stayed behind at the Redwood Inn on March 16 to make sure the sump pump kept working. The tavern is located in the 1400 block of West Main Street, one of the hardest-hit areas of the flood.
Civil defense officials estimated that 700 to 1,000 people showed up to bag sand at the Fort Wayne Street Department complex in the 1700 block of South Lafayette Street and stack sandbags along flooded areas. City employees were asked to report to work in old clothes on Sunday, March 14, to help with the sandbagging effort.
A man, a boy and a dog watch the water rise at the intersection of Calhoun Street and Tillman Road. The man said his backyard flooded in 1978, and weekend forecasts expected this flood to top that one.
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