Reconstruction of Morehouse after flooding now in full swing

Friday, June 10, 2011
Furniture, toys, floorboards and many other household objects have been removed from many Morehouse, Mo. homes Wednesday, May 11, 2011 as part of the clean-up from the floodwater that blanketed the town. (Laura Simon)

These days, Pete Leija speaks with a constant case of the sniffles.

It's the price you pay when you're the mayor of flood-ravaged Morehouse, Mo., and you're allergic to mold. In the New Madrid County community that until early spring boasted a population of around 1,000 people, mold reigns supreme.

"I've got allergies. And I'm in and out of so many homes doing assessments and stuff," Leija said. "I'm taking allergy pills every morning, but it seems they wear off by dinner."

About 280 homes, or two-thirds of Morehouse's residences, sustained water damage in the floods. Some 70 properties have been condemned, Leija said, with as many as 50 of those slated for removal.

"We have elderly people living in campers next to a house that's going to have to be demolished," Leija said. "It's a sad situation."

But reconstruction, Leija said, is in full swing, with the vast majority of property owners receiving promised FEMA assistance.

"A lot of them are well-pleased. There's a few who have had to go back for appeal," Leija said. "The bulk of people are rebuilding, under construction, replacing or rebuilding homes."

Individual flood victims in New Madrid County have received more than $2.7 million in FEMA disaster grants among Missouri counties with federal disaster declarations -- second only to Jasper County, home to Joplin, hit last month by the nation's deadliest tornado in decades.

As of Thursday afternoon, FEMA had approved about $20 million in grants for Missouri individual homeowners and renters, according to agency spokesman John Mills. Cape Girardeau County residents have received just under $100,000.

Public assistance to local governments, covering damage to infrastructure and debris cleanup, still is being tallied. New Madrid County Clerk Clement Cravens said initial estimates are that the county sustained about $3 million in damage, including estimates from its five hardest-hit communities.

New Madrid County is waiting on the water to recede.

"In many cases the roads may be accessible, but they're still not workable. Mostly gravel roads, or what remains of a gravel road," he said. "There is major damage to some. They're washed out and look like miniature Grand Canyons."

FEMA so far has distributed more than $6.5 million in grants to individuals in parts of Southeast Missouri, including:

* New Madrid -- more than $2.7 million

* Mississippi County -- $902,000

* Cape Girardeau County -- $99,629

* Scott County -- $334,000

* Bollinger County -- $58,000

* Butler County -- more than $2 million

* Stoddard County -- $465,000

As of Wednesday, FEMA had disbursed about $11.1 million to Jasper County, and $417,000 to Newton County, in tornado assistance funds, Mills said.

Generally, individuals have 60 days from the time of a disaster declaration to apply for assistance.

Call 800-621-3362 toll-free or visit disasterassistance.gov to initiate claims.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

105 E. Beech St., Morehouse, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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