Flood damage being assessed in county
Infrastructure money likely, assistance in air
The cleanup and damage assessment process is now underway following severe flash flooding throughout Cassville and Barry County over the weekend.
Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren declared a local state of emergency on Friday, and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has declared a state of emergency, as well. By the end of the rains on Saturday, more than 5 inches of rain had fallen in northern Barry County, 5-8 inches fell in central Barry County and 6-8 inches fell in southern Barry County.
Flat Creek, which runs through Cassville, broke its banks Saturday, flooding portions of Highway 112, Highway 248, Sale Barn Road, Main Street, Fair Street and the Cassville City Park and Greenway Trail. Elsewhere in the county, Highways C, Y, U, F, 39, 76 and 112 near Roaring River were flooded.
Normally sitting at 4.5 feet and hitting minor flood stage at 7 feet, the gauge in Jenkins showed Flat Creek hovering at 7 feet all day Friday, rising rapidly on Saturday and cresting at 25.74 feet at midnight on Sunday, breaking the previous record of 25.3 feet in December 2015. As of Monday at noon, it had fallen back to below 10 feet.
David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director, said throughout the county, there were 11 rescues, none of which were in swift water.
“Most of those were in the central and southern parts of the county, and we had two up north we responded to, but they didn’t end up needing help,” Compton said. “None of the rescues were in swift water, but were just helping people evacuate. People this time were very smart and did not get trapped in high water.
“We had the Purdy Swift Water Rescue Team ready to go all day Saturday, and they ended up keeping the Autumn Woods Apartments in Purdy from flooding by pumping water out of a nearby ditch.”
Compton said on Monday that Table Rock Lake was still very high, which could cause still more flooding problems in the Shell Knob area, such as in Big Bass Bend.
“That’s something we are still keeping our eyes on,” he said.
Compton said early estimates show about $250,000 in public infrastructure damage, which doubles the threshold needed to apply for and receive assistance for repairing things like roads and bridges.
“What we have right now is not a full estimate, but it’s enough that we absolutely will apply for federal aid,” Compton said. “Barry County has already submitted its preliminary assessment on public infrastructure.
“Highway C in McDowell was impressively shut down. It will be fairly impassable. We lost some big chunks of pavement. Highway 76 also had some minor damage.”
While the public side is ripe for assistance, Compton said he less enthusiastic about receiving individual assistance. He about a dozen businesses and a dozen homes, many on Fair Street in Cassville, have reported varying degrees of damage.
“Several people were evacuated from the Budget Inn [on Highway 112] in Cassville, and 15-plus homes in Cassville were evacuated,” he said. “I’m not sure if we will have enough damage to get a declaration, but we are assessing and turning in what’s required for the state. Individual assistance is more difficult because it’s not a dollar figure threshold. Instead, it’s based on impact.”
Dave Ruark, a deputy at the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, said his home was one of many on Fair Street affected by the flooding.
“My house is the first one the water gets to when it goes over the bank,” he said. “This time, it was higher outside than in 2015, but I had less inside. We’re still going through everything and trying to save the carpet and the floors, but there’s a lot of mud. I’m ready for the city to finish its [gravel] project so hopefully we won’t have to worry about this as much. They’ve stopped right out by my house.”
For those affected by flood waters in their homes, Compton said help is available from non-governmental organizations, such as the Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC), United Way, Red Cross and Salvation Army. People needing immediate assistance should call Gail Reed at the OACAC Barry County Neighborhood Center at 417-847-2140.
“Calls from residents have just started coming in [as of Monday afternoon],” Reed said. “We had a family from Fair Street come in, and we still had some of the Red Cross emergency kits from the last flood, so we hooked them up with one of those. As time goes on, I’m sure we will have some more people.”
In 2015, the center saw heavy flooding, but this time around, Reed said there was only minor flooding in the garage.
“We didn’t get hit nearly as bad as last time,” she said. “I think a lot of that gravel clean out really helped. We have some big rocks in our parking lot, but our dumpster didn’t float away, and last time it was just gone.”
Reed wasn’t the only one to compliment the efforts of the city of Cassville in cleaning out gravel from the creek bed. Compton said those efforts, and the efforts of the Cassville Police Department, have been a big help.
“The gravel work made a huge difference this time,” Compton said. “I give lots of credit to Steve Walensky for spearheading that. That work is an example of how you can save a lot of property, and even lives, with mitigation projects.”
Compton also gave credit to Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr for how the police responded to the event.
“Dana does some of the best damage assessment around, and I’m even sharing her workbooks because of how simple and informative they are, which saves time in the assessment process,” he said.
Richard Asbill, superintendent of Cassville schools, said water again breached the lower level of the intermediate school, rising all the way to the slab this time and sitting at that height for about 42 hours. He said crews have been pumping water out of the facility to continue construction, and while the water was high, no equipment was damaged.
The event did allow the school and its hired engineers a chance to see true impacts of the flooding, and Asbill said the mitigation plans the district is undertaking will be a positive change.
“This event confirmed all the issues we knew we had and helped us assess potential impact and planned mitigation options, and it has become very apparent that each of the components we have added are very important,” he said. “Once the project is done, I don’t think this will be an issue in the future. I told the board members and other people who stopped by to look that any questions about over-engineering or over-evaluating mitigation options have been answered, and all the components are needed to ensure this isn’t repeated.
“I am confident in Anderson Engineering and Paragon Architecture’s plans that we have a working solution based on all the facts.”