Hazleton Residents and Sandbaggers Feeling the Strain

Reporter: Rhanda Stewart

A little bit of sleep and a lot of work.

That's the Hazleton levee watch in a nutshell, according to Princeton fire captain Stan McNeece. "I've never seen this large of teamwork."

Over a hundred firefighters and soldiers working in three shifts are getting quite a workout. Overnight Thursday, holding the levee was tough. It sagged four different times while workers were standing on the sandbags, according to Hazleton Fire Chief Mike Ellis. "We have four eight-inch pumps in that ditch, we had one running and one for standby. We fired the two standby pumps up and we still weren't keeping up."

A 30 inch storm sewer pipe goes through the levee. Indiana Conservation Officer Mike Kelner says that's where the problem came in Wednesday night. "At the end of that pipe is a flap. That flap stays shut and for some reason that pipe is open and that's allowing water to come into the low ground."

So soldiers and firefighters had to sandbag even harder to keep the levee from sagging again. Once daylight came, so did a new crew. Melon conveyor belts from Knox County farmers are helping cut down the manpower needed to do the job. Ellis says, "That helps us not have so many Guardsmen and firefighters to hand hold sand bags."

Meanwhile, the local Methodist church is now a makeshift mess hall. Volunteers from the church and the Lions Club are feeding the crews. Volunteer Chris Dill has been evacuated from her house, but she's not thinking about that right now. "I don't have time to think about myself and what I'm losing. I'm thinking about everybody in the community."

Now there's the worry about below freezing temperatures forecast for this weekend. That will make it hard for soldiers and firefighters to work. And the sandbags are not as flexible as they are in warm temperatures.