The weekend’s historic flooding in the region resulted in several water rescue situations for local law enforcement and emergency response personnel.
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said he and several county deputies were involved in multiple water rescues directly related to the event, mostly due to people trying to drive across deep, swift-moving water. There were no reported injuries or fatalities.
“This was a big one,” Sigman said, “and there were some people who weren’t using enough caution.”
One rescue situation took place Saturday morning on Panther Creek Road at Cabool and a second where Elk Creek joins the Big Piney River.
A third incident took place at about 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sand Shoals Bridge on the Big Piney River, where water was raging over the top of the bridge surface.
“We basically just fished a car out,” Sigman said. “We got a report that people had witnessed it driving out there, and we didn’t know if anyone was in it when we got there. The car was out there bobbing around. We had a deputy swim out there and hook a rope to it, and I pulled it to the bank.
“Fortunately nobody was in it. Basically, a guy tried to drive across when it wasn’t going to work. There’s a story behind that – but at least we got the car out.”
A fourth rescue incident happened Sunday morning on Highway VV near Licking, where a driver tried to make it across a low spot in the road covered by deep water. After responders hooked the vehicle up to Sigman’s truck, he pulled it out to drier ground. The Licking Fire Department assisted at the scene.
Sigman said with multiple flood-prone riverways to frequently deal with – like the Big Piney and Roubidoux Creek – Texas County is in dire need of its own rescue boat.
“We can’t rely on these two and three hour waits to get a boat,” he said. “I’m hoping to have a boat by next year. We’ll get one, and we’ll get the training we need.”
Missouri State Highway patrol Troop G spokesman Sgt. Jeff Kinder said officers with the agency’s Water Patrol Division were staged at strategic locations around the troop’s nine-county region, and were involved in two water rescue operations in Texas County.
Kinder said the first happened at about 2 p.m. Saturday at Boiling Springs Resort off of Highway BB west of Licking where four people and a dog were taken by boat away from a house on stilts adjacent to the raging Big Piney River. The house later came down and was all but submerged.
The other occurred at about 7 p.m. Saturday in the Panther Creek area of southwest Texas County where three stranded people were plucked from trailer home surrounded by water.
Kinder said many more water patrol rescues took place in Howell County and other areas south of Texas County where devastation was much greater. Rivers were often not part of the equation.
“A lot of our rescues were actually in the city of West Plains, and there’s no waterway there,” Kinder said.
Kinder said the unexpected magnitude of the rainfall was to blame for many people finding themselves in trouble.
“People didn’t understand how high the water was going to get this time,” he said, “and they made an error in judgment. We’ve never seen water levels like this before and I think people underestimated what was going to happen.
“And it didn’t just happen in one place, it happened in a lot of places. I don’t know how far the records go back, but I’m sure this smashed any records we had before.”
Missouri Department of Conservation Texas County agents Chris Ely and Jeff Crites aided and assisted in several locations during the flooding.
Ely said it’s crucial for people to understand two things in flooding situations: Don’t try to cross an enlarged stream and be extremely cautious of how fast water can rise and cause problems if your home sits in a low-lying area.
“One of the problems we see is people not wanting to leave their homes,” he said. “They’re always adamant about not leaving until the water is so high up into the house that they realize they’re going to parish if they don’t leave. Then we have to put officers into harm’s way when they have to get the people out.
“Just remember that just because the water hasn’t gotten to you in previous years doesn’t mean it won’t.”