Flooding creates transportation issues

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Heavy rains that fell in Barry County Monday night and Tuesday contributed to wide-spread flooding that caused several local transportation issues and forced campers to evacuate two area campgrounds.

Rising flood waters caused a Cassville R-IV School District bus to stall at a low-water crossing on Highway Y near Highway U on Tuesday morning.

"The driver saw a little water over the road but didn't realize it was as deep as it was," said Jim Orrell, Cassville superintendent. "This was at the beginning of the route and the driver had only picked up three students."

When the bus crossed the road, the vehicle's breather sucked water in and caused the bus to stall. When the driver could not get the bus to start again he notified the school, which dispatched a second bus to the scene.

"While the driver was waiting for the second bus, he saw that the water was getting higher,"?said Orrell. "He made a decision to walk the students, who were all high school students, off of the bus, around 10 or 15 feet to dry ground."

The bus driver and students waited at a nearby house until the second bus arrived to take the students to school. The second bus, which was forced to drive through Butterfield and down Highway U to where the first bus was stalled, arrived around 20 minutes after the driver notified the school of the incident.

Cassville administrators contacted the Barry County Sheriff's Department to dispatch a wrecker for the first school bus. Emergency response personnel were also dispatched to the scene, but the students required no emergency assistance.

"With the weather conditions that we have and the ground as saturated as it is, this has caused a lot of situations where we were unable to get to the students' regular stops," said Orrell. "During the early morning it is sometimes difficult to make a split second decision regarding areas to cross."

The district dismissed classes around 1 p.m. on Tuesday after scouts noticed flood waters were rising above a low-water area on Highway 76/86 south of Cassville.

"We sent scouts out to check the routes three times at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.," said Orrell. "At 12:30 we saw that the water was beginning to rise in several areas and decided to play it a little safer by dismissing early.

"When we dismiss at 3:30 p.m. many of the buses don't get back in until around 5:30 p.m.," said Orrell. "A few hours can make a big difference."

Flooding also forced Roaring River State Park staff members to evacuate park visitors from campgrounds two and three on Tuesday.

"The lower half of campground one was also closed," said Kevin Bolling, park superintendent. "The upper part of campground one is pretty full because we moved most of the campers from campgrounds two and three to sites in campground one."

On Tuesday, waters rose over a low-water bridge in fishing zone one as well as the bridge near the Roaring River Hatchery. Park staff members blocked off both bridges to vehicles traveling through the park.

Water levels also rose in Roaring River Hollow, Dry Hollow and Pibern Hollow, but Bolling reported that waters were receding in Roaring River and Pibern hollows on Tuesday afternoon.

"We anticipate a lot more rain though, so that could change," said Bolling.

Although waters were up in the park, staff members did not evacuate any fishermen off of the banks on Tuesday.

"We haven't had to evacuate any of the campgrounds since 2003," said Bolling.

According to a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) report one shelter was temporarily opened and two water rescues were conducted in Barry County on March 18.

Flooding in Barry County also caused the Missouri Department of Transportation to close Highway 39 at the junction of Highway 248, and portions of Highways U, C, Y and 76/86.

The Exeter R-VI School District dismissed classes early on Tuesday due to flooding issues also.

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