Current River runs out of banks

Saturday, May 11, 2002

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The excessive rainfalls and multiple storms that have plagued Southeast Missouri during the past two weeks have resulted in substantial flooding along the Current River in Carter and Ripley counties.

"The river has left its banks," said Adam Whittom, Ripley County sheriff's deputy. "A few businesses within an eighth of a mile from the river have water in them. The water is close to the police department."

He said several boat ramps, parks and baseball fields are completely flooded, and "most of the businesses affected are in the city limits."

Diane Moore, radio operator for the city of Doniphan, Mo., said, "The water is covering Jefferson Street in front of the police department, and it's almost to the courthouse steps. It isn't driveable."

While Moore couldn't estimate the depth of the water on Jefferson Street, she did say there were several boats traveling on it.

"The Texaco station on Jefferson is completely flooded," she said. "Express Oil and Lube is flooded too."

Moore said an explosion that destroyed two stalls at the Express Carwash Thursday night is being blamed on the flooding. Moore said, "Down river, near Currentview, they'll have to evacuate because it's going to get higher there."

At Van Buren

In Van Buren, Mo., the Current crested at 23.2 feet around 10:30 a.m. yesterday, said Lori Stenzel with the National Park Service in Van Buren.

"The river is closed because of the flooding," she said. "They're planning on opening the upper river tomorrow, but it may be next week before they open it in Van Buren."

For towns like Van Buren, where the river plays a big part in the residents' livelihoods, the flooding could have a devastating effect on the upcoming tourist season.

"It's bad coming on the heels of the tornado," said Matt Bedell of The Landing in Van Buren. "We haven't had a chance to clean up the trees yet. I'm sure it's going to be bad."

According to Bedell, the water is only four feet shy of reaching The Landing's lower level, which he estimates has a 28-foot rise.

"We're about 15 days from Memorial Day," he said. "If the river is up two and a half feet, we can't float. It's going to cut it close."

Now that the river has finally crested, officials expect the water levels to begin dropping rapidly, but they're keeping a close eye on weather forecasts.

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