CHICAGO (CBS) — Several horses and other animals have been rescued from flooded homes in Lake Station and Gary, Indiana, after the Deep River rose so high over the last few days that dozens of homes ended up completely surrounded by water.
Firefighters used boats to go door to door in Lake Station on Wednesday, urging people to leave their homes, but many residents opted to stay. Meantime, others were working to save animals stranded on flooded ranches.
Nine horses were rescued overnight from a ranch in neighboring Gary, and were taken to higher ground. Lake Station firefighters were assisting with the rescue efforts Thursday morning, with teams pulling at least half a dozen horses and ponies and one llama out of a flooded stable.
Lake Station city worker Dwayne Polarek said the animals were in water up to 5 feet deep and in danger of drowning.
“The water was up to the beginnings of their necks when they went down there, and so they got them out of there. I felt bad for them, but they’re safe,” he said.
The animals were moved to a farm on higher ground.
Across town, near 29th and Utah, firefighters saved a few dogs that had been trapped in a home. Then a homeowner got in the boat to lead firefighters to his house to rescue his two dogs.
One stable manager spoke about the difficult job her husband and others faced as they tried to save the large animals.
“Four feet of water back on our land. Our horses were stuck,” she said. “The water was up to the pony’s shoulder when we went, and he had to go in by canoe.”
Joy Jackson and her family spent the night in a hotel. Lake Station Mayor Christopher Anderson said as many as 75 people from as many as 35 homes evacuated on Wednesday due to the flood.
“At this point, we believe the water’s going to start to recede, and that’s great news, and after that happens and we ensure that everybody’s safe, we can really work hard on doing what we can to help the residents in terms of getting to their house as quick as possible,” Anderson said.
This week’s flooding was the worst northwest Indiana has seen in 10 years.
Lake Station Fire Chief Chuck Fazekas said the Deep River was measured at 19.7 feet Wednesday night, and appears to have started receding. In September 2008, the river reached more than 22 feet deep, according to Fazekas.