Ditch levee breach sends water close to Stoddard County homes

Friday, May 6, 2011
A home above sits surrounded by flood waters Thursday, May 5, 2011, on the north side of the Highway 51 ramp off of U.S. 60. (Noreen Hyslop/The Daily Statesman)

STODDARD COUNTY, Mo. -- On Wednesday afternoon, residents living along the stretch of Highway 51 north of U.S. 60 in Stoddard County thought the worst was over -- the fields around them looked to be in good shape. Nothing was underwater.

All that changed in the early morning hours Thursday when a levee holding back the Mingo Ditch waters burst about three miles north of U.S. 60, pouring water across planted fields on Highway 51's west side. By 10 a.m. some homes in its paths were totally surrounded by the muddy waters that empty into Mingo Ditch from the St. Francis River near Fisk, Mo.

"Yesterday none of this was here," Bob Stoner said Thursday morning, indicating with a sweep of his arm the floodwaters that surrounded a home he owns but rents out.

Stoner was busy loading valuables and appliances from the home into the bed of his pickup at mid-morning, trying to salvage anything he could. Just up the road -- a road that was no longer visible -- a brick ranch home is no longer accessible by car.

The levee that allowed the Mingo Ditch water escape from its banks was built some 40 years ago, says Stoddard County Emergency Operations Center information officer Dale Moreland.

"The water moved pretty quickly after that levee was breached," he says.

The levee was breached around 2 a.m. Thursday, according to Stoner.

Highway 51 remained accessible north of U.S. 60 on Thursday. Roadblocks remain in place, however, on the southern route of 51 from the overpass.

A drive from Dexter westward hardly indicates the extent of flooding in the county. The situation becomes evident about three miles west of the Dudley exit and worsens approaching the west boundary line of Stoddard County. Fields on both the north and south sides of the highway remain under several inches of water. The threat still exists of further flooding in the area of Highway 51, as waters from the overflowing emergency spillway at Wappapello Lake continue their way south and east.

In Stoddard County, only one shelter remains open and is only a distribution point. The Lighthouse Christian Center at Highway 25 and U.S. 60 still has emergency and personal hygiene items available for those in need. No appointment is necessary to obtain items. The center is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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