Flood-fight moves south into Missouri

Thousands of volunteers support flood survivors, disaster response workers

BY SHANNON HARTSOE | HANNIBAL, MO | June 22, 2008


CRESTING -- On Friday water was still rising in Hannibal, MO, as record flooding moved south along the Mississippi River.
Credit: FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino

Volunteers spent the weekend feeding and sheltering displaced residents and aid workers as the Mississippi River swells and floods farms and homes in Missouri.

“I think everybody’s pitching in by trying to be neighborly and helping any way they can,” said Darrell Jones, who lives in Hannibal, Mark Twain’s hometown in northern Missouri where the river is expected to crest at around 29 feet over the weekend.

A few levee breaks north of town that relieved the river’s swelling and the fact that his home is on higher ground and far enough inland made it unlikely he would suffer any flooding, he said. “It would have been a lot higher but there been some levee breaches that have spread it out and delayed it,” Jones said. “I’m very fortunate.”

Others haven’t been. Five shelters were housing some 43 people on Saturday, said Susie Stonner, a spokeswoman with the state’s Emergency Management Agency. “We don’t know how many people have been evacuated,” she said. “Most people go to family or friends before they go to a shelter.”

Tom Dugger, executive director of the Northeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross, said five of the seven counties his agency serves Lewis, Clark, Marion, Ralls and Pike -- have been impacted by flooding. The Red Cross has helped care for displaced residents and aid workers at the shelters, which have averaged 20 residents each in recent days, he said. The effort has been helped by donated food from grocery stores and cooks and other volunteers from groups such as The Salvation Army and ministries of the Missouri Baptist Convention, Dugger said.

Some shelters are at schools, while in the town of Louisiana in Pike County, an Elks Lodge has provided shelter and three meals a day to displaced residents and aid workers, which includes nearly 100 National Guard workers, Dugger said. “Those guys and ladies are something else,” he said of the Elks Lodge volunteers.

Stonner said that there have been no reports of deaths or major injuries related to the flooding.

Emergency management continued to monitor the Mississippi River between the Iowa line and St. Louis. The agency predicted that river crests in some points will likely come within inches of record levels set in 1993. “The worst is not behind,” Stonner said. “It’s crested in some areas; it’s continuing to crest in other areas. We’re still in a flood-fighting mode.”

Faith-based disaster response organizations said their next steps will include damage assessment and getting victims the help they need, which can range from mops and brooms to shelter, rental assistance, food and other necessities.

“The river is still cresting, we just don’t know what has happened for sure and will happen as it moves on down,” said Rick Seaton with the men’s ministry and disaster relief operations of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Stonner, with emergency management, praised the joint efforts of volunteers.

“Faith-based groups have been wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people volunteering we’ve got thousands of good people. We can’t say enough about all the good things they’re doing.”


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