Cassville prepares for Tropical Storm Bill

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

City putting up barricades to minimize flooding possibilities

The city of Cassville is watching radar and putting out barricades in hopes of minimizing flooding as Tropical Storm Bill approaches the southwest Missouri area.

The storm landed Tuesday in Galveston, Texas, and the center is southwest of Dallas.

Steve Walensky, Cassville public works director, said he is paying close attention to live radar.

"We're in contact with the emergency management and with the state," he said. "It's a big storm."

While predictions have been lessened some since Wednesday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologists are still expecting significant rainfall through this afternoon in the southwest Missouri area.

Area weather forecasters issued warnings on Wednesday afternoon about the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Bill today. Andy Foster, meteorologist with the weather service, said southwest Missouri is in a swathe and can expect to receive 3-6 inches of rain through this afternoon, with some pockets possibly bringing more. Original predictions Wednesday called for 4-7 inches of rain.

"There's still a potential for flooding," Foster said. "The system is beginning to impact the area from the southwest."

During a conference call with the National Weather Service on Wednesday, Foster said the storm track has slowed, raising concern about what rainfall amounts will reach. Rain was expected to increase from midnight on Wednesday, developing into widespread rainfall by midday today. The actual remnant of Bill was not expected to move into the area until tonight and into Friday morning.

Foster warned that tropical storms can be accompanied by significant wind sheer, though often under the 75 mile-per-hour threshold to sound sirens. Tornadoes are possible. Heavy rain can also develop well ahead of the tropical storm.

"If the storm were to slow or stall over us, it will impact the total amount," Foster said.

Tropical storms also carry the potential of intensifying during nighttime hours. Foster remained hopeful the storm will have moved through the area by late Friday.

"We could see pockets across southwest Missouri, especially near the Arkansas border, where we may see more than six inches," he said. "It should taper off in the early afternoon Friday, but that's all based on the remnants of the tropical system and its track and speed."

The National Weather Service issued projections on the Elk, Spring, Sac, Niangua, Gasconade, James and Big Piney rivers, most of which may top flood stage by Friday. Spring River showed no flooding potential, unlike those in central Missouri. There are no river warnings in Barry or Lawrence counties at the present time. The James River is expected to crest at 15-1/2 feet near Galena in Stone County.

A spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers expected 20,000 cubic feet per second of water will be released out of Beaver Lake into Table Rock Lake. A similar flow should follow at Table Rock, where water levels rose a half foot between Tuesday and Wednesday. The lakes are close to being in their flood pools, the spokesperson said.

Walensky is concerned because Cassville, dubbed the city of seven valleys, is in a flood zone, so he and his crew are preparing for flood conditions.

"If you look at aerial photos, you'll see there are seven valleys that come into Cassville," Walensky said. "They all drain into Flat Creek. We know where everything floods, so we prepare and put barricades out in case the water comes up quickly.

"It could be four inches or up to six inches and bad. We just don't know. But we're prepared as always."

Walensky said portable barricades have been set in various locations around town that frequently flood, like the low-crossing bridge at 7th and Mill streets and two bridges on Sale Barn Road, one near Designs By Debbie and the other near White Funeral Home.

"We have all these various creeks coming in, so we don't really know where it will come from," he said. "It depends on which valley gets hit as to where it could flood."

Walensky said in April 2011, he saw water come up one foot in 15 minutes.

"It's truly flash-flooding," he said. "We had water splashing on the front of city hall. We took our backhoe and rescued people from the Dollar General. Hopefully, it will not be as bad."

Walensky said if anyone has an emergency related to flooding, they should call 911.

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