Flooding of Poplar Bluff -written by Diane Vaughn
Good Lord what a week!
Beginning on Sunday, our area began to have massive amounts of rain that eventually resulted in massive amounts of water! I live in Southeast Missouri and we have several rivers, our biggest ones being the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, but the big ones in our area are the St. Francis, Black, and Current Rivers. And, of course, most of the boot heel of the state is flood plain.
Well it began to rain around Friday, and then it continued through the weekend. Our front, back, and side yards filled with water, but no big deal because that always happens during a good rain. But by Monday, things were beginning to get really worrisome as the rain would not let up and it was making the rivers rise. On Tuesday morning, I was on my way to work, and I noticed that they had closed down parts of our Highway. But when I went to turn onto the ramp that would take me into Poplar Bluff, I noticed that the road that would go to a few businesses and the race track out there were completely inaccessible! As in, there were several feet of WATER! Now THAT was a surprise! In all the years I've lived here, I'd never seen Black River Industrial Park get flooded like that! The water was about midway up the doors - and still rising because it was STILL raining!
So I get to work and I happen to look over at the Black River when I was going inside to clock in. In my line of view is a railroad trestle that sits pretty high above the water's surface. Um, that surface was nearly touching the bottom of the trestle and my bridge.
As the day progressed, the water level beneath that bridge continued to rise, and eventually, Ray Clinton Park was also filling up with water. I began to hear from various people that 53 Highway was beginning to flood, and they actually began to shut down roads! But here's the worst of it: Piedmont, which lies approximately 50 miles northwest of us and also on the Black River had to be evacuated and most of the routes going into Piedmont had been closed, including the main route, Highway 34. Then I found out that Highway 67 (another main highway here) from 34 to Greenville was closed. My dad has to drive through that way on his way to and from work (he and Mom live near Greenville), and I was beginning to get concerned that he wouldn't be able to get home, especially if another route was closed. So, I called him and let him know, and boy was he glad I called! I was worried about my mom, too, because she works in Piedmont, so I asked Dad if she was going to make it home. Turns out, Mom didn't even make it to work because Hwy 34 had massive amounts of WATER rushing over it forcing her to turn around and go home - that was before 8 am Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, it was still pouring buckets, and I went to work as usual. Parts of our Highway were still closed, but when I got to my usual intersection to turn in to town, there were a lot of vehicles and johnboats lined up on the sides of the roads as the water had climbed even HIGHER than the previous day, and they were now evacuating people from that end of town by boat! And the water was up to the tops of the doors on the businesses over there. When I got to work, Ray Clinton Park was completely engulfed in water. The water of the Black River was now touching the bottom of the railroad trestle I mentioned earlier and it hadn't even crested yet!
Jesse went up in a plane and took aerial pictures of much of the flooding (though I wish he could have gotten Piedmont) and put them up on our website. We've had over a thousand hits on our site since those pics went up and he was telling me that the main concrete driveway that goes into the parking lot of the airport collapsed, and the second drive to get to the hangars (and is made of gravel) was mostly washed out.
Later that evening, we got all settled in to go to bed around 10 pm when we get a phone call from his mom telling us that the levee breached about a mile south of our house. They have a family friend who lives out there that called her because he knew we weren't far away, and wound up getting his house flooded. Now, when disaster strikes, usually people have a tendency to exaggerate things or overreact to things they don't know is true. Well this proved to be true when we threw on our clothes and went down our road to find Jesse's family friend standing in the middle of the road. We saw glimmering lights of a johnboat and flashlights of a rescue that was going on, and there were other people stranded on top of their trailers and houses. Jesse’s family friend got out with just his truck and the clothes on his back. Everything else he had was pretty well destroyed by the water (though he still had electricity in his house which is kind of bizarre). So Jesse and I decided it was better to be safe than sorry (or stupid) and got out of our house for the night. My dad had been calling (I sent him the photos of the flood, some of which are of my road), and was pretty much about to suffer a stroke from worrying about us.
It stopped raining on Wednesday afternoon, and while the Black River crested at over 22 feet, I have to say that the floods receded quite drastically over yesterday and today. My dad said that would probably happen. People are beginning to return home.
So in all, what a crazy week! -Diane