Barry County gets disaster declaration

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Debris is still scattered everywhere around the bridge at Townsend and West 10th Street after severe, atypical flooding the weekend after Christmas. The site is just one of the many areas the city will have to address when it has more information about emergency aid. Julia Kilmer/

County dealing with $1.5 million in damages

A privacy fence was completely dismantled and knocked down at a vacant home on Mill Street in Cassville, as a result of the atypical floods that hit the city the weekend after Christmas. Julia Kilmer

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Saturday night that President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration for 60 counties in Missouri, including Barry and Lawrence.

The declaration limits assistance to schedules A and B, which Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton said covers only things like debris removal and sheltering. He said the vast majority of Barry County's damage is in other areas, mainly roads.

"Ninety percent of our damage is schedule C and below," he said. "And, we have some road districts still assessing their damages."

According to Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Lawrence County is in the same boat, as she said damages as of Monday were at about $1.2 million, and five road districts still had not reported.

Debris is still wrapped around poles along Sale Barn Road, which was completely washed out and closed to the public last weekend when atypical flooding in December hit the city. Julia Kilmer

"We have about $760,000 from road districts so far, and for cities we have about $415,000, mostly things like parks and streets," she said. "Part of Marionville's water treatment plant's electronics got wet, and there's some park and fencing issues."

Witt-Schulte said she expects Lawrence County to be close to $1.5 million in damages, as each road district is averaging about $75,000, and five road districts still have not tallied total damages.

Witt-Schulte said although there was a shelter set up in Pierce City, the current declaration does not do anything for it, as only two people used the shelter and it was closed down merely two hours after opening.

"That's just how people in this community are," she said. "They take care of each other, so we don't have to bother with that much."

At the intersection of Mill and East 11th Street, flood waters were so strong from recent flooding it caused the concrete in the road to crack. Mill Street was temporarily closed to traffic by the city after the flooding, and residents along the street are asking for solutions to the flooding problems to prevent ongoing damages it causes, with no relief due to the inability for anyone to obtain flood insurance. Julia Kilmer

While there will be little immediate effect from FEMA, Compton said he is confident the county will qualify for public assistance, and possibly individual assistance, after a damage report submitted Tuesday is reviewed and FEMA officials survey the worst of the damage over the next two weeks.

"If we get individual assistance, those individuals may be eligible for grants up to $33,000 to provide safe housing," he said. "But, individual assistance requires a different threshold, the impact threshold."

Compton said the state's threshold for public assistance is $6 million, and Barry County would have to meet $126,000 in damages to get a wider-reaching declaration.

Cassville resident Scotty and Stacy Stewart, who live on Mill Street, were not home when flooding hit the city last weekend, but it was so severe on their street, it was closed by the city temporarily. The flooding caused their basement to flood, damaged their hot water heater and washed out their fence, as well as reducing their yard to mud and debris. Julia Kilmer

Witt-Schulte said Lawrence County's threshold is only about $130,000, which is has already surpassed.

"By the time the whole state gets evaluated, I can't imagine us not getting more assistance," she said.

Compton said individual assistance qualification is more unpredictable.

"To me, we had a better chance at individual assistance in July, but of all the FEMA programs, that's the hardest to nail down and do," he said.

Rodne Schmohe, of Cassville, lives on Mill Street, near the intersection of E. 11th Street. Flooding was so severe, the street was closed by the city and the concrete in the street cracked and buckled. Schmohe said so much gravel and water washed downhill into his yard, he had to shovel a ton of it out of his yard, and that the water was right at his doorstep. There was so much gravel, he said, the city used a backhoe to remove some of it.

Cassville resident Rodne Schmohe motions to show about how high the gravel and water were in his yard last weekend from the floods. He said both in July and in this flooding, a significant amount of gravel washed down from Mill and East 11th Street into his yard, causing a lot of work for him. Julia Kilmer
The city park, and various parts of the city, are a mess with tangled debris everywhere from the flooding after Christmas. The city is in the process of assessing the damage so that cleanup efforts can begin. Julia Kilmer

"The city needs to figure out better drainage," he said. "I think the city need to do something about the flooding," he said. "Like dig out Flat Creek. Every four months of this is getting old. Or, [they could] find a different way to route the water."

Shown is the crossing over Flat Creek on West 11th Street and County Farm Road near Justin Boot. A week after the flood, several areas of Cassville are in disarray until the city can fully assess damages and create a cleanup plan. Julia Kilmer

In addition to all the gravel in his yard, a phone pole, garbage can and flower pot were washed away.

"The city needs to get an engineer in here and figure out this town and how it drains," Schmohe said. "It all either congregates in this area, or the Dollar General."

Schmohe's neighbors Rodne and Stacy Schmohe were not home when the flooding started, but their basement flooded, their hot water heater was ripped out and his fence washed out, amounting to about $1,500 in damages that there is no insurance pay, due to the inability for residents or businesses to obtain insurance in the city.

Cassville resident Rodne Schmohe shovels the last of a pile of gravel that washed downhill from Mill Street into his yard as a result of the recent flooding. The street was closed by the city after the flooding, and flood waters caused the concrete in the road to crack and buckle. Schmohe said the water was up to his door and the combination of gravel and water as up to about 1-2 feet in his yard. After dealing with the same problem only five months earlier from the July floods, Schmohe said he would like to see the city come up with a solution for residents to address the flooding problems. Julia Kilmer

"I can't believe you can't get flood insurance here," Rodne Schmohe said. "This is the first place I've ever lived where you can't get flood insurance. The city needs to fix [the flooding problem] and get someone in here that knows what they're doing. It's ridiculous."

Witt-Schulte said in Lawrence County, nine mobile homes and 20 houses saw damage, and all but one was insured.

Compton said total damages in Barry County are estimated at $1.5 million, without including the figures from flooding in July. More refined numbers will be submitted this week, and Compton said FEMA officials should be in Barry County sometime in the next two weeks to look at damage.

The ballparks and bleachers at the city park are a tangled mess from the raging flood waters that washed through it after Christmas. Julia Kilmer

"Some of these areas have to dig for damage to qualify for a program, but we have a long list prepared," Compton said. "We have a plan of action to give the FEMA representatives a feel for damages throughout the county."

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