Heavy rains fell last Thursday and Friday night in Texas County, swelling streams, damaging and closing roads, and endangering the safety of a least one group of people. Following the back-to-back stormy nights, rain gauges in the Houston area recorded around eight inches total or more.
The onslaught of moisture resulted in a reported water rescue early Saturday, in which personnel from the Texas County Sheriff’s Department, Clear Springs Fire Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and National Parks Service responded to Bradford Road in the southeastern part of the county where five adults, four children and two dogs were rescued from atop a Ford Explorer stranded in high water near the “Blue Hole” area on the Jacks Fork River.
The group had apparently been camping at the location, and were plucked from their watery perch by the group of responders whose equipment included a propeller-driven parks service boat.
A patrol representative said one of the refugees was arrested at the scene for having an active Texas County misdemeanor warrant – Amber Peterson, 31, of Willow Springs.
The quickly accumulating rainwater caused numerous problems on rural county roads. Cass Township board president Jack Watson –– who also heads up the county township advisory board –– said many unpaved roadways sustained major damage, with several becoming impassable.
Watson said he doesn’t recall such widespread flood destruction in his 33 years with Cass Township.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” he said.
Watson said Cass was the hardest hit township in the county, and that damage included a box culvert being destroyed on Morgan Road. He said some of the worst damage took place on Solo Road.
“We had a tin horn that washed completely out of the road and it’s gone,” Watson said. “We can’t even find it. It was a new tin horn that was put in about a year ago, but it’s gone now.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported that U.S. 63 near Simmons was closed beginning at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday, along with Highway BB near Boiling Springs. The Big Piney River crested so high that water went over the big new bridge on Highway RA at the Baptist Camp access. The roadway on the west side of the bridge was washed out and reduced to a barely passable makeshift affair.
“The fill on both sides of the road was cut out,” Watson said, “so it’s more or less one lane on that side.”
Watson said that when the bridge was finished last year, a local resident warned that the river could –– and would –– submerge it. A bridge engineer didn’t think so.
“He said, ‘Jack, at some point you’ll see it seven feet over the top of that bridge,’” Watson said. “I told that to the engineer and he just laughed and said, ‘Maybe once in a 100 years in just might go over, but I doubt it.’ It’s been a year and it’s already been over it.”
Watson on Monday urged residents of remote areas to use caution when traveling rain-damaged roads.
“I left out at 6:30 this morning and I’ve been driving the township roads all day, and we have lot that are still impassable,” he said. “It’s incredible. There’s a small branch over by Gardner Ford Bridge and I’m satisfied that if my pickup would have been sitting there, the water would have gone clear over the top of it. And that’s just a little branch. But you can see the mud on the bushes where it was that high.
“I’ve never seen it that high there before.”
The big rains spurred power outages on both nights in and around Houston. Intercounty Electric Cooperative representative Karen McNew said a total of 2,900 member homes and businesses within Intercounty’s system experienced outages over the two-day stretch, all of which had their power back on before noon Saturday.
The aftereffects of the watery blast will take some time and money to deal with. Watson said the cost of repairing flood damage in Cass Township alone is between $300,000 and half a million dollars.
“We have 95 miles of roads in the township, and a lot of them are on hills and in valleys and hollers,” he said. “It’s prime territory for water damage.”
Including a destructive storm that occurred on a Thursday night about a month ago, most of Texas County’s 17 townships – which exist for the sole purpose of road maintenance – have already had several bouts with bad weather in 2013.
“I’ve had more calls in the last month than I’ve had in the last three or four years,” Watson said. “It’s frustrating now. Maybe it’s time to let the county take care of the roads, I don’t know. I do know they can qualify for grants and we (the townships) can’t.
“But we’ll march forward and do the best we can.”
County Emergency Management Director Bennie Cook has been in contact with townships all over the county helping assess storm damage to roads, and said that if the state documents $8.2 million or more in damage, emergency assistance funding would kick in. Although Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared an emergency situation in the state, there was still no confirmation at press time that county townships would receive flood recovery aid.