'Parade of storms' to continue

Saturday, March 29, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Julie Parmer looks through one the flood damaged homes owned by her and her husband in Dutchtown on Wednesday, March 26, 2008.

The floodwall gates have reopened. FEMA teams have come and gone.

There will be more rain but not as much flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

This time the rain will come in bands of thunderstorms, according to Dan Spaeth, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Paducah, Ky., office.

March was an "outlandish month" for rain, he said.

All told, Southeast Missouri has recorded 15.73 inches of rain since March 1, the bulk of it falling in a 36-hour period between March 18 and 19.

Late Friday, Tim Gramling, director of public works for Cape Girardeau, said computerized rain gauges set up on the north and south sides of the city reflected 13.75 inches of rain in 36 hours, "which is kind of the average of about a 300-year storm, based on data I've tentatively got."

He is working with officials from the U.S. Geological Survey to verify the calculations.

The most rain in Southeast Missouri came in May 1973, for a total 16.89 inches.

"By Monday, our odds are pretty darn good you'll have the wettest month on record," Spaeth said.

There is, Spaeth added, no end in sight for what he called a "parade of storms."

The Themis Street floodgate was opened Friday. The pumping station continues to operate, according to Andy Juden Jr., president of the Main Street Levee District.

He said this weekend's weather will not likely require closing the gates again. The National Weather Service predicts the Mississippi River will fall below flood stage by 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Juden said his only real concern is whether thunderstorms will affect power.

"If we lose power, we don't have pumps," he said.

Spaeth said one benefit of the storms is that both government agencies and individuals are more aware of safety factors.

"If you have a second event or a potential second event the response should be better on all levels. Unfortunately, it takes that initial event to sensitize everyone," he said.

The effects of a record-setting rain remain visible everywhere, nearly two weeks later. More than a dozen roads remain flooded and closed in Southeast Missouri.

Piles of trash heaped in front of homes reflect a basement's worth of belongings. A petition asking for a flood buyout is being circulated among Dutchtown's 99 residents.

High water forced the closing of the Dutchtown and Burfordville post offices and prompted the evacuation of the Chaffee Nursing Center. FEMA's visit included agency administrator David Paulison.

After the worst flooding receded, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the annual spring rise of the Missouri River; the corps agreed to halt the move.

Officials at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, near Puxico, Mo., announced the Auto Tour Route will not open April 1, as is typical.

Resources

On Friday, Gov. Matt Blunt issued a statement asking people to create personal emergency plans. The state's department of health and human services offers a Web site with tips at www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3.

Call 800-621-3362 or visit www.FEMA.gov to learn more about disaster assistance programs.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency crews are in the process of recovering fuel tanks and other possibly hazardous containers displaced by the floods. The crews are searching the Big, Black, Gasconade, Meramec, Current, St. Francis, Whitewater and Castor rivers to find cylinders, propane tanks, fuel tanks and chemical containers that were swept up in floodwaters. By mid-afternoon Friday, 266 were identified.

When possible, owners will be alerted to recovered containers. Unidentified containers will be sent to Poplar Bluff and Eureka for inspection, sorting and disposal or recycling.

The DNR operates 24-hour spill line at 573-634-2436. Callers must provide the following information: Name, phone number and address of the person making the report; watershed in which the container is located; description of the container, such as propane tank, fuel tank, drum; and whether there is evidence of leaking (sheen on water).

For flood cleanup tips, visit state-run Web sites: www.dnr.mo.gov/disaster.htm; www.dhss.mo.gov/BT_Response/Nat_Disaster...; or the EPA's page at www.epa.gov/naturalevents/flooding.html.

The American Red Cross offers people affected by the flooding individual and family assistance; cleanup supplies; drinking water; and other emergency support. Call 866-38-4636 for details.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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