Black River levee breaks

Saturday, May 11, 2002

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Black River broke through a levee Friday morning near Butler County Road 202, prompting evacuations as floodwaters threatened houses and livestock.

A 97-year-old woman who lives next to the river opted to stay in her home as the waters rose.

"I'm still here," Anna Lourance said by telephone on Friday. "I've been here 60 years, and it never has got up around our house,"

She said she's raised her family there.

Those family members stayed with her Friday morning, and a grandson was bringing a boat in case it was needed, she said.

She just doesn't think evacuating is necessary, she said, "as long as it don't get up like it's going to get in the house."

Lourance said, "I will go if it gets to where it's going to get in my house. My kids are watching. They'll get me out if it's real necessary, if it looks like it's going to get dangerous."

Lourance said several people in the area had been evacuated.

"They come down and picked up some of them, but I didn't want to go," Lourance said.

Spencer Shain, director of Poplar Bluff/Butler County Emergency Management Homeland Security Agency, said, "The break's about 30 feet wide; we don't know how deep."

He said agency personnel had just gotten a look at it by helicopter.

The Black River crested in Poplar Bluff at 18.2 feet Thursday afternoon, said Gene Brannum, city streets superintendent. On Friday, the gauge was at 17.3 and falling. All floodgates on the river were closed.

"We're pretty stable now," Brannum said. "We don't need no more rain though. We'll be monitoring it day and night this weekend."

Water at levee rising

Shain said water pouring through the breached levee was still rising and he was unsure what path it would take.

"It just depends on how it starts equalizing at the break," Shain said.

Near the break, four people had stayed with their homes, according to reports at the scene. The number of people who evacuated was not available Friday, although a small crowd had gathered on a hill above the site.

Miniature horses

"I was in bed, said Tina Brown. "My dad come in there and hollered, 'The levee's broke. Get your car out!'"

She said, "When I come out, it was in our yard."

The group watched as neighbors who raise miniature horses tried to get the animals out and through the flooded waters.

"Them horses would have drowned," said Butler County sheriff's deputy Gene Hensley, just after a crew of jail trustys herded the horses through the rushing water.

Robert Vanover, who owns the horses, and family were trying to rope them, but the animals, skittish from the initial trip across the water, ran up and down a hill, then swam back into the floodwater. Two boys went in after them and eventually got them under control and managed to get the ropes on. Vanover put them in a trailer.

Mike Tidwell, who lives near the flooded area, said he's used to levees breaking here.

"It's no big deal," he said. "We just all live with it and go on."

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