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Buffalo residents decide to stay or flee as floodwaters overtake town

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – Dozens fled, others stayed and some had to be rescued in the town of Buffalo after the Tippecanoe River flooded the town Tuesday.

In Buffalo, it was hard to know where a road ended and the river began. Monticello firefighters didn’t seem to mind one way or another, rescuing resident Leonard Jerva after his car died north of town.

“It didn’t seem bad, and I thought I could make it around the bend because I saw dry land over there,” Jerva said.

Soaked but otherwise fine, Jerva was one of at least a dozen people that first responders had to rescue or evacuate by midday.

A quarter-mile down the road, backyards that are usually 50 feet away from the shoreline were swallowed up by the water. Buffalo’s Chapmans Drive is among the worst hit.

About a dozen homes are partially underwater, and the river will continue rising through the day. Many roads in Buffalo are now submerged.

Residents Merel and Debbie Nelson are high and dry, but just barely. They drove down from Portage to find their home was spared by inches.

“We were pretty lucky when we pulled up and saw that we’ve got lakefront property,” Nelson laughed.

Authorities say the rain wasn’t the problem – it was upstream causing all this to happen too quickly for many people to evacuate.

The Fawley’s weren’t as lucky as their next-door neighbors. Just one lot away from the Nelson’s, their home is taking on water slowly. But Barb Fawley said they’re staying put.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s happened three times,” Fawley said.

That’s just three times in 30 years water has reached Fawley’s house.

With the TV on and the plumbing working, you’ would hardly know water surrounds the home. Though floods like this are rare, Fawley has been through this before. She said it’s taught her some lessons.

“Right now, it’s just kind of a sit, watch and wait,” Fawley explained. “Not much else we can do. Because the river controls everything right now. We have no control.”