Public Works says Clark Lane was closed before fatal incident

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 4:57 p.m. CDT; updated 5:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — Barricades to keep drivers from crossing floodwaters on Clark Lane set up Saturday night before a woman drowned in Hominy Creek were moved during the night according to the Columbia Public Works Department.

"The City Street Division put signs up at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday evening," said Jill Stedem, public information specialist for Public Works. "Between 3 and 4 a.m., the barricades (that had been placed in the road) were down."

Stedem said Public Works staff didn't know at what point in the night the barricades fell, however, they determined that someone interfered with the barricades, and it appeared a car had knocked them over.

Signs closing the road were also posted at the site but remained in place overnight.

"The ‘road closed' sign was still posted," she said.

Just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Columbia resident Michelle Runkle was swept away by several feet of water. She had waded into Hominy Creek to help rescue a man clinging to a bridge after the flood submerged his car.

Runkle was found dead early Sunday evening, 16 hours after rescue crews began trying to find her. City firefighters rescued Chris Crocker, the submerged car's driver, from the bridge.

According to Stedem, the section of Clark Lane near Hominy Creek had not been prone to high water in the past. "This is the first time that area's flooded in our knowledge," she said.

Stedem said the decision to close a road typically comes from Public Works via Joint Communications once an agency, often the police, finds an impassible road.

"We received a call from Joint Communications (late Saturday night)," she said.

Columbia police were on the scene when the barricades and "Road Closed" signs were placed, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp. The barricades had been moved and were not blocking the road when emergency crews arrived.

A list of road closures in Boone County can be found online at


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