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Flooding threat remains around Missouri lakes

Monday, April 14, 2008 | 11:06 p.m. CDT; updated 2:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Flood-weary residents were hard hit again by high water in parts of southern Missouri in recent days, resulting in reports Monday of one death and dozens of damaged and waterlogged homes.

In Hartville, in south-central Missouri, a 43-year-old man died when driving near the flooded Gasconade River on Friday. Parts of Branson’s lakeshore were cleaning up after 28 homes flooded, out of 49 homes that were evacuated last week on Lake Taneycomo.

In southeast Missouri, a levee break flooded dozens of homes outside of Poplar Bluff over the weekend, some of them flooding for the second time in about a month.

And it may not be over yet — the Corps of Engineers said it is closely monitoring lakes in the entire White River basin, including those in Missouri, that have reached or are near capacity.

The Missouri State Water Patrol said Oscar Roberts of Hartville died in the flooded Gasconade River on Friday night. The Water Patrol’s dive team responded after a Chevy Blazer was seen along flooded Highway E. No one was inside, but the keys were in the ignition and the driver’s window was down. Roberts’ body was recovered nearly four hours later a quarter-mile from the vehicle.

Along Branson’s lakeshore, more than two dozen homes flooded last week, city spokesman Jerry Adams said. Taneycomo rose because of flood waters the Army Corps of Engineers had to release from Table Rock Lake. Table Rock crested early Saturday, and the corps was able to cut back Monday on the water it is releasing through the dam, so Taneycomo is receding.

Adams said besides the 28 homes damaged, one large fishing dock with 30 boats attached was torn away from shore by the current in Taneycomo, and a maintenance shed at a campground was flooded.

Butler County’s Emergency Management Director Rick Sliger said residents knew it was possible they would experience more flooding after a temporary levee was installed there a few weeks ago, following the failure of a Black River agricultural levee about two miles southeast of Poplar Bluff.

He said residents were showing a lot of resiliency.

“I think, if anything, people were thinking, ‘Here we go again,’” he said. Emergency responders went door to door in the rural area early Saturday morning, notifying residents that a temporary levee hadn’t held and telling them to evacuate.

“It looks like the ground underneath gave way,” Sliger said. No injuries were reported. He said it may be this summer before the ground is dry enough so work can begin to fix the agricultural levee.

A shelter set up by the American Red Cross at an area church reported just one person stayed overnight, and it has since closed.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock, Ark., said the six lakes in the White River basin are near or exceeding capacity. “Once the lake is full, if you get more rain, water has to be released through the dam at the level it’s coming into the lake,” said P.J. Spaul, corps spokesman in the Little Rock district. “Whatever is flowing in has to come out.”

Residents who live near Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry and Clearwater lakes in both Missouri and Arkansas need to pay attention to weather reports and take action if they’re advised to do so.

“Our message to everybody is don’t let your guard down yet,” Spaul said. “They’re accustomed to the dams providing them protection from flooding, but right now they (the lakes) can’t do that, because they’re full.”

AP writers Marcus Kabel in Springfield, Mo., and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.


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