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Waynesville Flooding: Six Months Later

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. -- Though it is hard to think of on a winter day like this one, six months ago Waynesville was inundated with flood waters.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. -- Though it is hard to think of on a winter day like this one, six months ago Waynesville was inundated with flood waters.

Rescuers were searching for a young mother and her son and homeowners were scrambling to save what they could.

The flood and what followed gained national attention. The mother and son did not survive when their car being swept away.

Six months later in Waynesville, it is snow on the ground that's impeding progress instead of flood waters.

But, the city is still working hard to remember those that the people lost and to help those that lost everything recover.

In August, flood waters roared through Waynesville damaging and destroying all in its path, causing $900,000 worth of damage.

The Waynesville Mayor says the city paid no greater price than the death of young mother, 23-year-old Jessica Lee and her four-year-old son Ely, who were swept away in a flash flood.

A memorial stands where Jessica Lee was found, on the banks of the Roubidoux yards away from the funeral home where her son was already in rest.

"My whole focus has been the Lee family and the death of Jessica and Ely Lee weighs heavy on me every day,” says Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman. “I don't think a day goes by that I don't think of them. Her birthday would have been tomorrow.”

While grieving the loss of this family, the mayor must still look to rebuilding the parts of the city left in a shambles in the wake of the Roubidoux and Mitchell Creek.

"This is our street department," says Hardman as she points across a field on the banks of the Roubidoux. "Those buildings have been condemned and they are also going to be demolished."

A task, Hardman says this small city could not do alone.

"We work almost weekly with FEMA," says Hardman. "We are dedicated to mitigating the problems that were really evident before this flood in some areas, because of the Roubidoux."

Homeowner Sandra Sterling is still working to reclaim and rebuild her home.

Standing in her back yard she points to a small, dry creek bed covered with a few inches of snow. Sterling said six months ago it was a force to be reckoned with.

"Behind me, this became a raging river,” says Sterling. She describes water pouring into her basement, but says there was something worse.

"Actually the worst part was the black mold that came all over," Sterling says, pointing to walls.

Reclaiming has happened with the help of multiple volunteer groups including the Pulaski County Community Organizations Active in Disaster. Military and community volunteers from around the state and across the country have helped homeowners like Sterling.

"Literally mucking out the homes, which is taking out all the debris all the dirt,” says Michelle Horne Volunteer Coordinator for the Pulaski County (COAD.) “Taking down the walls, taking out the floors taking out whatever needs to come out of the homes mitigating them and then rebuilding and that's where we're at right now the rebuilding stage."

Sterling and Hardman both say they could not have come this far in six months without the community coming together.

"To me it's God's blessing here to us in Waynesville that these volunteers in the name of God volunteers would come and help us,” says Sterling. “I am so, so grateful.”

Those working on homes were not working this week because of the weather they'll be back in full force soon and they still need volunteers.

The COAD says if you want to work just one day or many days, you are most certainly welcome.

If you or your group is interested in volunteering with the Pulaski County COAD during this long term recovery phase, you can call 573-337-2286 or email pulaskicoad@gmail.com

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