Last week when the weather reports started to come in, we all feared for the worst…and then the worst happened. Heavy rains, flash floods and rivers cresting at record levels devastated homes, farms and small businesses in southeast and south central Missouri.
In the aftermath of the storms, I met with local mayors, police chiefs, fire departments, emergency management directors and first responders to hear about the flooding in their communities. These folks showed me some of the hardest hit areas and we discussed the assistance they needed. We talked about their ongoing disaster response, harrowing swift water rescues, and the work they are doing to get relief to Missouri families.
As I met with people affected by the flooding, I saw downtown main streets and community centers under water and more farms, homes and small businesses destroyed than I can count, but I also saw hope. With each and every conversation, I heard countless stories of Missourians working together to help their communities recover from this incredible storm.
When I got to West Plains, they were still reeling from a massive flash flood that roared through their town, destroying dozens of homes and businesses. They had a record 14.5 inches of rain in under 36 hours that led to emergency crews rescuing nearly 100 people. But the next day, West Plains residents put on their boots and gloves, and got to work. Even with school cancelled, a huge group of high school students came out to show their pride and clean up the damage to their school and football field. I was proud to see the next generation rising up and caring for their town.
In Van Buren, the Current River was more than eight feet over its previous record high. It was devastating to see more than half of the town under water. Over 100 homes and 30 businesses were destroyed, but the spirit of the community was not. Everyone I spoke with was strong and optimistic, and I am confident they will come back from this disaster even stronger than before.
I met with emergency management and elected officials in Poplar Bluff and learned that they were in for a long week of flood fighting. On Monday, Clearwater Lake was completely full and utilizing its emergency spillway. The Missouri Army National Guard along with many local volunteers filled thousands of sandbags to shore up the levees and make sure critical spots held up through the flood. As first responders, volunteers and the National Guardsmen worked to fight flooding, local restaurants and members of the community donated food and supplies to serve more than 2,500 meals.
I know what you’re going through feels overwhelming and unreal right now, but Missourians are strong and we will get through this disaster together. Whether you're in Thomasville, Eminence, Ellington, Gainesville, Doniphan, Steelville, Houston, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, Greenville or any other area that has been severely impacted by this flood, I am here for you. We have a long road ahead of us, but Missourians are resilient. Together we will work to recover and rebuild our communities.