Sandbagging efforts continued Monday morning in Rocheport as the swollen Missouri River was expected to make a second crest in the afternoon and in anticipation of what meteorologists says will be another soggy week for the Central U.S.
The historic community in northern Boone County endured the second-highest level ever on Friday but was spared an expected crest over the weekend as levees upstream overtopped or breached, spilling water into bottom land in Lafayette, Saline, Chariton and Howard counties. However, on Sunday and Monday river levels were again on the upswing and expected to rise to 33.1 feet on Monday afternoon, about 12 feet above flood stage at Boonville and about six inches below the level reached Friday.
Mayor John Zondca said volunteers, many of whom had spent the past 12 days working along the river, were trying to build a floodwall to about 37 feet, the mark of the Great Flood of 1993.
“We are trying to build our wall up to basically, we don’t like using the term the Flood of ‘93, but we are trying to build it up to that level of the Boonville river gauge at 37.5 feet,” Zondca said. “So we are pretty close to the center of town and we are just trying to work out way out. We hope with a strong push today we will be able to get to each end of town.”
So far no homes in the community have been affected. Most concerning was the flood water infiltrating the sewer system, Zondca said, which could cause numerous issues.
“Most concerning is this sewer system, which runs the bottom half of town,” Zondca said. “If it gets overtaken, there is a possibility it will shut down other parts of the town.”
Zondca said he was grateful to all who have come out to help with the efforts. Locals and non-locals he said have traveled to lend support as have a number of local businesses, which have donated equipment, food, water and other needed materials.
“It’s an unbelievable act of kindness from the community,” Zondca said. “I think our town is endearing to a lot of people and it's really great to see the outpouring of support.”
The river has been steady, rising or falling in a range of about 18 inches, for much of the past week in Central Missouri. While river levels have been steady, the threat of even higher water remains. The National Weather Service expects storms to return to the area Monday night and Tuesday and a continuing threat of rain.
“A persistently wet pattern will dominate this period, particularly heading into next weekend,” the weather service stated in the daily forecast discussion issued at 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Early afternoon readings on the river were 35.7 feet at Glasgow, 10.7 feet above flood stage; 33.2 feet at Boonville, 12.2 feet above flood stage; and 32.3 feet at Jefferson City, 9.3 feet above flood stage. In Boonville and Glasgow, this year will be recorded as the second-worst flood in history.
Roads are closed north of Boonville into Howard County, with water covering Highway 5 almost to the Highway 87 intersection. The Boonslick Bridge was closed to traffic Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, Missouri Department of Transportation and Boonville Police vehicles were stationed in front of the signs blocking the bridge. People still walked across the bridge to see the flooded bottoms on the other side of the river.
Route 40 is closed from the Boonville side of the bridge to the intersection with Highway 240, and Highway 5 is closed up to Sulphur Street in New Franklin. Highways Z and J are closed going towards Petersburg, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Franklin is blocked off, and County Roads 342 and 345 going into it are closed, New Franklin Police Chief Mike Wise wrote on Facebook.
Other roads closed by flooding include Routes HH and OO in western Cooper County and Route V in eastern Cooper County.
In Boone County, Route K is closed at the Katy Trail near McBaine and there are seven local road closures: South Grocery Branch Road at South Railroad Street near Huntsdale; Soft Pit Hill Road at Hartsburg Bottom Road, Hart Creek Road between S. Jemerson Creek Road and First Street and Hartsburg Bottom Road, all near Hartsburg; Harold Cunningham Road from Route MM to South Rippeto Road, all of South Rippeto Road near Easley; and South River Road from Wilton to Hartsburg.
The latest round of flooding set a new record Sunday at Napoleon in Lafayette County and is at historic levels elsewhere. Throughout the Missouri River valley, 22 levees have breached from the current round of flooding and 17 have been overtopped by high water, according to a daily report on river conditions from the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Open Bible Praise Center on Highway 87, south of Interstate 70, in Boonville, for anyone displaced by flooding. Two people stayed at the shelter over Friday night, according to the Red Cross.
Central Missouri Community Action is working with Columbia College and Central Methodist University in Fayette to house people displaced by flooding and the tornado in Jefferson City. Six families are using the Columbia College dorm rooms and two families are being housed at Central Methodist, said Angela Hirsch, program director for the CMCA.
The agency sought additional housing after exhausting other options, spokeswoman Cheryl Unterschutz said.
“There is so much need for places for people to stay,” she said. “We had vouchers for hotels in Jefferson City, but the hotels and motels are full and there are so many people displaced.”
The agency is asking for donations of gift cards for the purchase of food and fuel for displaced families. The agency also needs financial donations that can supplement its federal and other funding that is restricted to people with low incomes, Hirsch said.
"The beautiful thing about donations, the more financial support and donations we get the more people we can serve because the donations don’t have the income limitations attached to it," Hirsch said.
In Hannibal on Monday, Gov. Mike Parson inspected flooding firsthand along the Mississippi River and was briefed on local flood-fighting efforts.
"We are trying to get out and see how people are doing and how we are responding and what we can do from the state level, within reason, to help," said Parson, who also was scheduled to stop in the flood-weary communities of Canton and Clarksville.
Parson said residents along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are in for a lengthy battle.
"I want to remind everybody this is probably a long haul," he said. "We are a long way from these rivers going back to normal."
Missouri already has started seeking federal disaster assistance for flood victims. "It will be coming, I believe, when the federal government decides to do their part by approving it," Parson said.
In Rocheport, Jacob Holman, one of the owners of nearby Les Bourgeois vineyard, has been helping with flood-relief efforts since the onset. On Monday morning he was busy putting sandbags on the steadily growing wall south of town.
“The Rocheport community is very important to us,” Holman said. “We spend time with these people, we live with these people, and even though I’m not in any danger of losing my house, I feel it’s important we protect the community.”
Drew Lemberger is co-owner of the Mount Nebo Inn, which sits just across the Katy Trail and a stone’s throw from the rising waters. He said as of Monday his business was safe, but was concerned if the waters rose to levels seen in 1993 and he too was busy placing sandbags along the levee.
“In 1993, it was just getting ready to go inside of it, so if we stay below the record we should be fine,” Lemberger said. “I have been working every day since last Friday. Not only do my wife and I own the inn, but we own a house in town and we want to keep everything working. We don’t want the whole town to have the sewer shut off.
A short distance upriver in New Franklin, Mayor Newton Arbogast said as of Monday residents were concerned how much farther the water would rise into the southern part of town, although many residing in that area had already been evacuated.
“We are concerned, obviously, about how much farther it’s going to come up into the lower part of the city of New Franklin here and Franklin as well,” Arbogast said. “Then of course there is the concern about what we are going to do about the cleanup and all that afterwards. We won’t know a whole lot until the water recedes.”
Arbogast said sandbagging was not an option and residents in low-lying areas were asked to leave. The river, he said, had not reached any homes as of Monday, but was drawing near some houses.
“As far as my current knowledge at this point, none has been in anybody’s house yet,” he said. “It’s just kind of knocking on the backdoor of everybody's property here.”
Boone County Emergency Management Director Tom Hurley on Monday said other areas of concern were the communities of Wilton and McBaine. Roadways and infrastructure were also seeing some problems, as dozens remained closed Monday due to floodwaters.
“Really, the only thing to compare it to at this point is the flood of ‘93,” Hurley said. “This is a historic flood and for some folks in our community who weren’t around then, this is the highest water they have ever seen in the area. We are not really close to the ‘93 levels, we are still 4-5 feet away from them, but we are still looking at a very historic event.”
GateHouse Missouri correspondents Rudi Keller, Brendan Crowley and Danny Henley contributed to this report.