WEST PLAINS, Mo. — “It was chaotic,” said Tom Stehn, West Plains city administrator, and engineer.
“We had more water than we could possibly ever handle,” said Kent Edge, emergency management director in West Plains.
That’s what they remember from April and the days that followed after the town was covered in flood water.
“It’s almost a blur because it was so busy during that two-week period,” said Myles Smith, manager of Member Services at Howell-Oregon Electric Co-op.
2400 Howell-Oregon customers lost power and it took about 11 for everyone to get their lights back on.
He says the company counted on the help of other co-ops around the state, many of them brought in specialized equipment to help speed up the process.
Smith says the high water kept his crews from reaching customers.
“We saw five bridges out in our service area,” he said. “We’d have to drive around an hour and a half versus a 30-minute across trip.”
Edge says the same was true within city limits.
“Our creeks run right in the middle of the city; the city was split in half,” he said. “We had no bridges that were tall enough that we could get across; we had to use boats.”
Edge says they had five boats and two were damaged while trying to rescue people.
“We had over one hundred rescues and not a single death.
A little over six months later, City Administrator Tom Stehn says a lot of work has been done
“We got five sites to get rid of the debris, so we got those cleaned up,” he said. “We got the bridges back, but there still could be some work on that.”
But there is still much more to do.
“We are working really hard to clean up our ballparks, so we can have a baseball league next year,” Edge said. “We still have individuals out of their homes, we still have individuals that have major damage, and they are living in their homes,”
They will always remember that day and the lessons they learned…
“Safety, safety, safety,” Smith said.
And what they saw above the water.
“Everybody pulling together trying to take care of other people,” Stehn said.
“I saw a community come together,” Edge said.
Edge says so far the restoration has cost the city of West Plains about $2 million so far. He estimates it will cost another one to $1 to $1.5 million.