Motorists rescued from Southwest Missouri flooding

Monday, August 20, 2007

PLEASANT HOPE, Mo. (AP) -- More than 12 inches of rain caused flash flooding in parts of southwest Missouri Monday, damaging homes, washing out roads and bridges, stranding motorists and leaving one town temporarily cut off.

The rain began falling Sunday night and kept coming through Monday afternoon. Meteorologist Doug Cramer of the National Weather Service office in Springfield said parts of Lawrence and Dade counties received 12 inches of rain or more. Six to 12 inches of rain were reported in southern Polk and northern Greene counties.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries, though several motorists were rescued in various locations around southwest Missouri, authorities said.

"There's just dozens of roads -- and major roads -- closed or impassible," Cramer said.

Some of the worst damage was in Pleasant Hope, a town of 700 residents near Springfield. Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed, emergency management director Rick Davis said. Some parts of the town got 15 inches of rain in a four-hour period. For a time, all roads into the town were cut off before the main thoroughfare was reopened in the afternoon.

The rain caused the roof over the City Hall courtroom to collapse. Davis estimated that 30 bridges in the area around Pleasant Hope were damaged or destroyed. Schools were undamaged, but children had to stay long after the closing bell because flooded roads kept them from getting home.

"We've never had this kind of water," said Davis, who estimated damage in the millions of dollars. "It's just a mess."

The heavy rain was a remnant of Tropical Storm Erin, Cramer said. The precipitation was moving east and was expected to begin losing steam, Cramer said.

Southwest Missouri, with its many hills and rocky soil, is prone to flash flooding, a fact made worse by the unusually large amount of water in a short period of time.

"The soil here doesn't absorb the rain quite as well -- it just wants to run off, and when you have the hills, it runs off even faster," Cramer said.

While most of the damage reports were water-related, the NWS issued a tornado warning for parts of Laclede County near Fort Leonard Wood Monday afternoon after residents spotted a funnel cloud. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Cramer said parts of U.S. 13 near the Greene and Polk county line were shut down because of water on the roadway. Parts of U.S. 96 were also impassible. So were dozens of state highways and smaller roadways.

A car carrying a woman and her two children was washed off the road in southern Polk County. They were able to scramble to safety.

Between Eudora and Walnut Grove, emergency crews rescued a man whose pickup was washed off the road and lodged against a concrete wall. Also at Walnut Grove, there were reports of water flooding a bank building.

At least two roads were washed out in Greene County.

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