Flash flooding warrants evacuations

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Flooding closes Main Street in Cassville Democrat Photo On April 26, Main Street in Cassville was closed for around two hours when water filled the parking lots in front of Dollar General, the Habitat Restore and the Carr Plaza and overflowed into the main roadway. Flash flooding resorted in evacuations of several businesses along Main Street and in the Meadow Valley Subdivision. More flooding photos appear on pages 16 and 22 of this week's newspaper.

The steady rainstorms that pounded Barry County this weekend brought wide-spread flash flooding Monday morning. Rising waters caused evacuations in Cassville.

"Our first and foremost concern was public safety," said Steve Walensky, Cassville public works director. "A key ingredient of our efforts was observing the local waterways and the seven valleys leading into Cassville.

"Our team handled the situation very well," said Walensky. "I am very proud. They did a great job."

Cassville city staff members began watching Flat Creek and other waterways in the city on Friday evening and continued monitoring rising waters throughout the weekend, said Walensky.

"As the flash flooding started to occur yesterday, we had already deployed resources and had equipment and other resources available to assist with rescue efforts," said Walensky.

The city remained in close contact with local emergency personnel and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

"The flooding started on the west side of town," said Walensky.

As the waters of Flat Creek rose out of the banks and submerged first the Cassville Greenway Trail and then a large portion of the city park, staff members Kenny Schieler and Keith Gregory were dispatched to close all roads leading into the recreational area.

Sale Barn Road was also closed early Monday morning as Flat Creek ran over the road near its intersection with Highway 112. The water also rose to the bottom of the Highway 112 bridge in Cassville.

The rising waters completely surrounded Designs By Debbie, which is located near the intersection of Sale Barn Road and Highway 112. Water flooded the business' basement and damaged a large amount of holiday decorations and silk flower arrangements.

"The water in the parking lot across from city hall came up so fast," said Walensky. "We notified the businesses along Main Street to watch the flooding and consider evacuating."

According to Walensky, city staff members were most concerned about the businesses located on the east side of Main Street from the Highway 112 intersection to Sonic. Other businesses along Main Street also experienced some flooding issues, including Ramey and Cassville Motor Inn.

"We had two people trapped inside Dollar General," said Walensky. "Duane Moller used the city's backhoe to rescue those individuals."

The water that pooled in the Dollar General parking lot overflowed onto Main Street Monday morning. Cassville Police officers and Cassville Fire Protection District members blocked the street from the Highway 112 intersection to First Street. The street was closed for around two hours.

Waters surrounded Cassville City Hall, forcing the city to close a portion of West Street. The intersection of County Farm Road and 11th Street was also closed temporarily.

On Monday morning, while Walensky and Eugene Dilbeck, city administrator, traveled through Cassville to assess the flash flooding, they noticed that waters were rising in the Meadow Valley Subdivision.

"We deployed our resources to rescue individuals from two locations," said Walensky. "One was an elderly lady from a trailer house and the other was a family. I think there was even a dog."

Corky Stehlik, Barry County Ready Mix owner, Bobby Ennes, Seven Valleys Construction owner, and Lana Couch, Couch Excavation owner, also assisted with rescue efforts.

The First Baptist Church Family Life Center (FLC) was opened as a shelter for individuals evacuated from their homes and businesses. FLC staff members also served lunch for the police officers, public works employees and emergency volunteers who assisted with the flash flooding response.

Over the next few days, city staff members will assess damage caused by the flash flooding, including the Cassville Greenway and the city park.

"Those are the biggest items, but we will be looking at all the flooded areas," said Walensky.

Dilbeck said the city is also bracing for more potential flooding as forecasters predict another several inches of rainfall today (Wednesday).

Although Cassville students were already out of school on Monday, due to the Easter holiday, the R-4 District decided to cancel classes on Tuesday as well.

"Several of the low water crossings were still covered," said Superintendent Richard Asbill. "We didn't feel it was appropriate to run our routes, and we also felt there was no reason to force parents to try to get students to the buses.

"We had a lot of water," said Asbill. "Due to that, we had some flooding issues in the lower level of the intermediate school also."

The district expected to resume classes today (Wednesday).

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