NEW FRANKLIN--Two weeks after being forced from their home when the Missouri River breached the Petersburg levee in southwest Howard County, John and Alycia Ewings brought their son Caleb home Thursday and began moving their belongings back in.
When the order to evacuate came May 31, the Ewings packed everything, including the furniture, in less than five hours, they said.
“We had some help,” John Ewings said. “Some trucks, trailers and good friends”
Since they left residents in the area were advised to evacuate their homes, the Ewings have been staying with their daughter in Speed, a small unincorporated community in Cooper County. Instead of a quick drive of about 20 minutes on Highway 5, checking on their home on South Missouri Street once they left became an hour-long drive through Rocheport and side roads around flooded Highway 40.
While displaced, John Ewings would visit the house everyday to check the damage.
“Being displaced from our home, to drive around to come clean up and check on it, and then the stench,” John Ewings said. “It’s not very pleasant. It’s just been a headache.”
Flooding is not new to residents of southern Howard County in general or to the Ewings in particular. In 1993, when the Missouri River reached the record crest of 37.1 feet, water was waist deep in the home of John Ewings’ parents across Missouri Street.
“We already had an idea that it could get bad,” John Ewings said. “In ’93, my mom and dad made the mistake of not getting their stuff out. They just grabbed some clothes. ‘Cause when it happened then, [water] was already coming in the back. We tried to block some stuff off, but it was already too high.”
The river has been falling very slowly since cresting at Boonville at 33.73 feet on the afternoon of May 31. The gauge was just under 30 feet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and is forecast to fall another 4 feet by Tuesday.
The threat of renewed flooding will remain throughout the summer as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains high flows from reservoirs to release water held back during the historic flooding. Levee breaches mean water could get back into areas that would normally be dry at levels below this year's flood, the second highest ever recorded at Boonville.
There is rain in the forecast this weekend and next week but the total is not expected to have a significant impact on river levels.
Travel through the river bottoms remains difficult but some roads have reopened, including the Spur Highway 240 from Rocheport to Highway 40, allowing access to Fayette. Highway 40 remains closed east of Rocheport in Boone County and throughout the Howard County river bottoms.
At this point, the Ewings are still assessing the flood damage on their home. Their crawlspace and basement filled with water.
“As far as the damage, we don’t really know yet,” he said. “We’re still pumping out the basement. I did see where the water pressure had pushed out part of my foundation.”
Though not ideal, the damage could have been much worse, they said. The flood waters were only about six inches below their floorboards when the basement was filled.
“We were very lucky,” Alycia Ewings said.
The Ewings said they did not have flood insurance.
“It’s kind of like my mom and dad [in 1993], when it happened to them,” John Ewings said. “You just kind of go on and replace what you can and do it yourself.”
Though their house was not damaged, Ed and Elizabeth Wiseley who live on Highway Z in southern Howard County can see fields across the road filled with flood water. At one point, the entire road was submerged, Ed Wiseley said. Fortunately, their house sits on a hill, he said.
“I couldn’t get in, outside of going through cow pastures just to check on the house,” he said. “At one point I was in waist-deep water trying to walk down and check on the house. It just got too deep.”
The Wiseleys have only lived in their house since February. While the couple was fortunate to avoid any damage, they also experienced the anxiety and annoyance of being displaced from their home due to nearby flooding.
Ed and Elizabeth are employees at the Isle of Capri hotel and casino in Boonville, where they stayed during their 16-day displacement. They were able to return to their home Wednesday.
Returning home also means a long drive to work. What would normally be an 11 minute drive down Missouri Route 87 and across the Highway 40 bridge to the casino can take up to an hour because of detours.
Both couples, the Ewings and Wiseleys, said most of their neighbors did not have any flood damage. Despite some of the inconveniences and issues the flood waters have caused in southern Howard County, both couples considered themselves lucky knowing the damage that was caused during the 1993 flood.
Other roads in Howard County that remain closed include parts of Highway 87, Route J and Highway 5. Significant portions of those roads are submerged by flood waters. It has not been determined when the roads will open again, Adam Pully, communications manager at the Missouri Department of Transportation, said.
“We’re still kind of waiting,” Pulley said. “It’s a case by case basis. As roads become uncovered and we can access them there’s cleaning. ...We also do an inspection of the structure of the road. ...We go through all of that before we open a road back up.”
MoDOT will continue to inspect the roads in the area as the water levels decrease, but at this point it’s a waiting game, he said.
“There’s not a lot we can do against Mother Nature,” Pulley said.