Flooding returns

AT LONG LAKE LEVEE east of Henrietta, P.J. Englebrecht and Peter Kruger are part of a sandbag crew that tries to end the flow of flood water over the levee.

HARDIN – Ray is among 13 Missouri counties included in a federal disaster declaration due to flooding and severe storms from March 11 to April 16 – additional flooding hit the county Wednesday, leading to an evacuation warning for Hardin residents.

Some of that disaster money likely will go to cover the cost of sandbagging along levees designed to keep Long Lake and Crooked River out of Henrietta and Hardin.

Water topped the Long Lake levee off Long Lake Road by a couple of inches. A determined crew of volunteers included South African natives P. J. Engelbrecht and Peter Kruger, who now farm in Ray County. They unloaded bags delivered by Gus Hockemeier.

“My dad’s a farmer down here,” Hockemeier said while driving a side-by-side over the levee, with water and a steep drop off on both sides. “If the levee goes, it’s going to hurt everybody’s farms, unless we get it stopped.”

On Hardin’s south side, firefighters went door to door starting at 9 a.m. to warn residents about rising water.

“They didn’t really say much – just thanks for the warning,” firefighter Brian Lee said.

Firefighter Billy Booker said the only people who seemed a little frightened are the ones who had to get out of bed to answer the door.

Across the street from the Fire Department, at Hardin City Hall, City Clerk Patty Lam stressed the evacuation is voluntary, not mandatory, and not yet necessary. The city just wanted to make sure everyone would be ready to go if water continues to rise.

Lam said residents have been asking her questions by phone and by text messages about the potential for flooding.

“It’s been crazy,” she said, and estimated since 9 a.m. she had taken “hundreds and hundreds of phone calls.”

People also walked into the office to ask flood-related questions, including whether they could expect the power to stay on. Lam said she expected power would remain, but nature would make the final call.

While Lam answered questions from a walk-in resident, followed by two more phone calls, a flatbed loaded with sandbags drove past City Hall.

Although residents farther south in town had been advised to evacuate if Crooked River continues to rise, Lam said city staff is not ready to walk out the door.

“Not at this time,” she said.

The flood of 1993 included Missouri River water that inundated Hardin residences and businesses, and unearthed graves from the cemetery. Crooked River alone can cause serious problems, but Lam said she doubted Hardin would experience anything as bad as what occurred nearly 26 years ago.

“People are just scared because of the ’93 flood,” she said. “I’m not going to say it can’t happen. Water’s water and it can find its way into a lot of different things, but it is not the magnitude of what we had in ’93.”

Before noon, Ray County Emergency Services Coordinator Carl Harper said the levee situation looked stable, but the forecast called for more rain.

“Fingers crossed,” Harper said.

Cooperation among emergency personnel is getting better, he said.

“We’ve been contacted by the State Emergency Management Agency; by Peggy McGaugh, the state rep.; the Highway Patrol has offered services – everybody is on alert and ready to go if we need anything,” Harper said. “I’ve been trying for five years to get everybody to coordinate and maybe now they’re listening.”

A couple of people, Kevin Roney, Lawson, and Shane Thompson, Kearney, made the most of a bad situation by fishing in at least a mile-long spread of backwater near the Route J bridge between Route 13 and Hardin. With the wind up, choppy water sometimes displayed small white caps.

“It looks like a lake to me,” Thompson said. “We’ve got some pretty good waves.”

Good fishing, too, he said.

“We got three big old channel cats,” he said. “Probably one weighs about 20 and two, probably, 10 pounders.”

Roney brought in one and Thompson two of the channel catfish.

“The water’s up and it’s good fishing,” Thompson said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover various flood-related costs, such as sandbagging, personnel, shoring up levees, fuel for pumps that have been running 24-7 and replacing Calvert Road Bridge, Ray County Commissioners Allen Dale and Bob King said during their meeting Wednesday. 

An early estimate of county costs topped $750,000, Dale said.

“This disaster funding is critical to rebuilding the communities that were devasted by the unusual flooding this spring,” U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II stated. “I’m pleased that the administration made the common sense decision to approve this disaster declaration, and to the local, state and federal leaders who workedto ensure these communities received the assistance they so desperately need. Now the real work of rebuilding homes, roads and bridges begins.”

The entire Missouri delegation in Congress asked the administration to grant the disaster declaration. 

Gov. Mike Parson also sought the declaration. His April 24 request said $25 million in qualifying expenses already had been identified for Missouri.

Cleaver and Parson met with Ray County residents and officials to discuss the flooding situation in April.

In addition to Ray, the declaration makes federal assistance available for the repair of damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure, along with emergency response costs associated with storms and flooding, in Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Holt, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Platte and Ste. Genevieve counties.

“This disaster declaration means millions of dollars in vitally important federal reimbursements will be available for communities that are hurting because of damaged and destroyed roads, bridges and other vitally important infrastructure,” Parson stated. 

The declaration also makes available assistance through FEMA’s HazardMitigation Program to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property due to natural hazards. Parson said the state expects to request the public assistance disaster declaration to expand to include additional counties.

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