Cleanup underway after deluge hits Barry County

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Dusty Reid, center, director of facilities and operations at Cassville schools, got some help from school maintenance staff in flushing out 2-3 inches of water flowing in the hallways of Cassville Intermediate School on Monday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Second flood in six months brings more rain than July

Cassville Intermediate School saw 2-3 inches of water rushing down its hallways on Monday, causing some cracks in the floor and created a jet near one of the rooms. Superintendent Richard Asbill said eight rooms were effected, six fifth-grade rooms and two resource rooms. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrrat.com

For the second time in less than six months, the city of Cassville and surrounding areas saw a deluge with more than 24 hours of consecutive rains, totaling 12 inches in some areas.

Officials are beginning to survey damages after flooding and David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director, said the county saw some of the highest rain totals in Missouri, as a foot of rain hit areas between Purdy and Monett.

Flat Creek, considered to be in flood stage at 7 feet, crested at 19.84 feet when Cassville flooded on July 7. On Sunday at 6 a.m., the National Weather Service's gauge in Jenkins read 24.77 feet, and by midnight Monday, it had risen to 25.24 feet.

In analyzing the damage, Compton originally thought the county, cities and schools saw maybe $500,000 in damages, but that number is developing to be much higher.

"Based on additional information about damages we learned on Monday, to road districts and schools, we expect to raise our disaster declaration estimate to between $1 million and $1.5 million," he said. "And, that's with less than half of the road districts reporting, because some still [could not even see their roads on Monday]."

Compton said another preliminary estimate will be delivered on Thursday, but a full picture will not be pieced together until the middle of next week.

The city of Cassville saw widespread flooding on Saturday and Sunday, with the majority of Saturday's high water engulfing Sale Barn Road, Fair Street, County Farm Road and Harold Street, where some evacuations occurred. On Sunday, portions of Main Street had to be closed, as water had gone over the roadway in the same areas as in July, from the Dollar General store nearly to the front door of Ramey.

Dana Kammerlohr, Cassville police chief said all in all, this flood was not as rough as the one in July.

"Some businesses had water up to their doors and possibly inside along south Main Street," she said. "Residences on Fair Street had water up to their doors and possibly inside, but it wasn't as bad as in July. All the rescue teams did a great job of getting people out, including the Cassville Police Department, Cassville Public Works Department, Cassville Fire Department, Exeter Fire Department, Barry County Sheriff's Office and Missouri State Highway Patrol."

Steve Walensky, public works director for the city of Cassville, said a number of flooding hotspots in the city saw the majority of the flooding.

While flood waters rage through Flat Creek, Motorists cross the 7th Street bridge, doing their best to get around during severe flash flooding in Cassville and surrounding areas Saturday and Sunday. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"At the 11th Street bridge, there was some asphalt damage, and on Mill Street at Highway 76/86," he said. "We also had some washouts by the 13th Street bridge."

Walensky said the 7th Street crossing into the city park was still not visible as of Tuesday morning.

"The park got hit again, but we were still waiting from the original FEMA money from July, so we hadn't done anything to fix it from last time yet," he said.

While businesses do not look to be as devastatingly-affected as in July, the Cassville school district is dealing with flooding in one of its buildings. Richard Asbill, superintendent, said 2-3 inches of water was flowing in the lower level of Cassville Intermediate School on Monday.

"Water [was] still coming in, and it will take a few days before we can get it all out," he said. "It's too soon to know a damage estimate, and we're making alternative plans to move classes to other parts of the building or to the middle school. We're trying to get school started on Jan. 4 as planned."

Asbill said no water entered the schools in July, but this past weekend was a different story.

"We had a water issue in 2008, but this is a lot worse than that," he said.

Roaring River State Park did not see the kind of damage it dealt with in July, according to Hatchery Manager Paul Spurgeon.

"We really dodged a bullet, because it could've been a lot worse," he said. "But, the hatchery came through without a scratch, and there's some high water from the spring, but less than expected."

The Cassville City Park was transformed into a lake after severe flash floods hit due to nonstop rainfall from Saturday through Sunday. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Spurgeon said water this time came mainly from Dry Hollow, which kept the upper end of the park from seeing the same kinds of damage as in July.

"The river didn't even get out of its banks at the top," he said. "But, Dry Hollow came over the highway, and part of that stream is messed up."

During the entirety of the deluge, Compton said 33 high-water rescues were completed in Barry and Lawrence counties, including one by Mill Pond in McDowell involving 10 people. As Purdy firefighters were attempting to rescue two people from a home, the water rose quickly, trapping 8 emergency personnel along with the home's occupants. Barry County deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol were on scene, and the Highway Patrol's boat team was used to rescue the group.

Compton said a Springfield Swift Water Rescue Team was on its way, but everyone was moved to safety by about 5:30 p.m., just minutes before the team arrived.

Compton said in the 33 rescues Saturday and Sunday, only two people were hospitalized, including one person from a home south of Aurora, and another from a home south of Marionville. Both persons were hospitalized Saturday, then treated and released. Both were fine on Sunday morning, Compton said.

The road alongside Designs By Debbie on E. 5th Street, otherwise known as Sale Barn Road, also is home to Cassville Aquatic Park, Regal Beloit and several other businesses, and was closed to traffic over the weekend, reopening temporarily Sunday morning, then closing again mid-afternoon due to severe flash flooding Sunday night. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly said the Sheriff's Office performed 15 water rescues on Saturday night, including one requiring a boat near the Missouri Department of Transportation barn on Highway 37.

Epperly said deputies were out until 3 a.m., rescuing several stranded motorists and homeowners with its military-grade Hummer. There were no reported injuries or drownings.

"Some went to the Family Life Center in Cassville, others went to the motel by the Ford dealership, and some went to family's homes on higher ground," he said.

Epperly said the toughest rescue was at a mobile home park on Highway 37 near the MoDOT barn, where one home was taking on a lot of water, and two people were stranded there.

"We took our Hummer in but had to back it out, but the Highway Patrol brought their boat in and got them to safety," Epperly said. "[The rescues were] an all-night deal. We had one person in McDowell that needed rescuing, and the Purdy and Cassville Fire Departments, Department of Conservation and some volunteers were out there.

"Six of my deputies were working overtime last night, and they had no problem doing it."

Compton said an issue looking forward is Table Rock Lake, as the water has been rising at a rate of half a foot per hour at some times.

"Beaver Dam is releasing water at a rate of 91,000 cubic feet per second because Beaver Lake was at 112 percent capacity and reaching its crest," he said. "Table Rock crests at 935.6 feet, and anything above 930 or 934, we'll start to see flooding in areas like Big Bass Bend."

Flood waters raged through Flat Creek off of Main Street and flooded nearby areas. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Compton said the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the dam, is considering releasing water into Taneycomo, as the White River system is too full to take on any more.

"There is a proposal to do a release from Table Rock to Taneycomo at 80,000 cubic feet per second, which is much higher than ever done before," he said. "Table Rock is a big lake and can take on 40,000 or 50,000 cubic feet per second easily, but anything over 60,000 makes it go up fast."

Compton said he is also concerned about low temperatures in the following days, as standing water may turn to ice.

"By [today], there will still be standing water, and there will be freezing temperatures," he said. "So, we may start having ice-related incidents."

Compton said an emergency declaration was requested Saturday night, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon. Statewide, eight fatalities have been reported.

Dollar General in Cassville was hit again by flood waters and forced to close on Sunday, when flash floods threatened to come in their doors. In July, customers and employees had to be rescued, and the store was closed for several days due to damage from flood waters that came into the store. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"Widespread flooding and continued rainfall are causing very dangerous conditions across much of central and southern Missouri," Nixon said. "Multiple fatalities due to flash flooding have already been reported, and I urge Missourians in flood-affected areas to stay alert, avoid travel if possible and never drive into a flooded roadway. With more heavy rain expected tonight and tomorrow, state emergency management personnel will be working around the clock to keep Missourians safe."

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