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150 Flood Victims Take Refuge in West Plains Shelter, Many Impacted Statewide

Jennifer Moore

Scores of people in West Plains are staying in a shelter operated by the American Red Cross after flash flooding forced 70 water rescues in Howell County Saturday night.  

Cody Bryant, who organizes the Red Cross disaster response in West Plains, said the shelter at the First Baptist Church at 202 Walnut Street provided food, blankets, and medical attention to about 150 flood victims Saturday night. He expects approximately 70 to stay Sunday night, he said.

Bonnie Vincent says she saw the water rising outside her mobile home and tried to keep her daughter and two grandchildren, ages 7 and 9, calm.

“It just kept rising higher and higher, and we called, what, about three hours before, for the rescue to come out?  And it took them that long to get there,” Vincent said.

A rescue worker waded through the water to reach them, then guided them through a muddy field, cut through a fence, and walked them over the railroad tracks to higher ground. Others in their neighborhood and across the county were rescued by boat.

Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU
The American Red Cross provided shelter to approximately 150 flood victims Saturday night at the First Baptist Church in West Plains, Missouri. Officials say they will keep the shelter open as long as it is needed.

Governor Eric Greitens has declared a state of emergency for the area.

"Basically, we had boats out everywhere. We actually tore up three boats trying to rescue people,” said Kent Edge, director of emergency management for West Plains.

Emergency officials are asking residents to stay home if at all possible, since many bridges may be structurally unsound.

You can see a MODOT map of roads and bridges closed by clicking here.

Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU
A mobile home park in West Plains, Missouri, was severely damaged by flash floods Saturday night. All residents are accounted for.

Many families have experienced a total loss due to the flash floods. Donated items may be taken to the First Baptist Church in West Plains when road conditions improve.

A facebook page, West Plains Neighbors Helping Neighbors, has been set up to allow flood victims to post their needs online.

According to West Plains city spokeswoman Mallory Prewett, Convoy of Hope will be at the Faith Assembly Church, 805 Worley Drive in West Plains, at 10:00 AM Monday for any residents needing water or groceries.

Statewide Impact

Gov. Greitens said in a news conference Sunday afternoon that over 110 evacuations and 136 rescue operations had been performed since the flooding hit. Those were carried out by local first responders, the State Emergency Management Agency, fire mutual aid, the Missouri National Guard, Missouri’s Task Force 1, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“Courageous, capable men and women have been operating in these dangerous conditions. Families trapped on the roofs of their homes due to rising water, drivers who lost control on flooded roads… lives have been saved by our first responders.”

The flooding did claim two lives, the governor said.

Credit Ryan Welch / KSMU
S Farm Road 219 in eastern Greene County

In a statement, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill called the situation “scary” for communities across the state.

“Everyone should pay close attention to guidance from first responders and local officials. And I'm ready to assist with any federal resources that might be needed as the flood waters recede, and our communities begin to recover,” McCaskill said.

The Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency  Management on Saturday issued a statement urging caution for drivers, as numerous roads are closed throughout the county. The agency is offering up-to-date flooding information through its social media platforms via Facebook and Twitter.

In Stone County, the Branson Salvation Army says it has 15 people staying in its shelter at the former Reeds Spring Middle School. There were 14 overnight residents at the Taney County shelter at Branson United Methodist Church, with additional families checking in Sunday.