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Columbia Missourian

Floods, fights constitute strange week in Columbia

By Tom Warhover
September 19, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

In a week filled with Ike floodwaters, a drowning death an a fight that spread across a large swath of downtown, the Missourian helped citizens separate rumor from fact and put events in context.

Dear Reader:

What a strange week.

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On Saturday, I attended a football game at Faurot Field with 54,201 of my closest friends — against a team few had heard of before, well, Saturday.

Fed by the after-effects of Hurricane Ike, the rain falling on players and spectators that day was warm and steady. It continued through the night, and the creeks and rivers rose in places to levels not seen in decades, if ever.

Early Sunday morning, 20-year-old Michelle Runkle became part of a much more tragic number. More than 50 people died from the Ike-induced rain and wind that swept across the country.

And then, Thursday afternoon, I read a report on the Missourian Web site about a late-night disturbance downtown. The second paragraph says: "At one point, police had more people in custody than they could transport in patrol cars, said Columbia Police Lt. Dianne Bernhard. ‘It was pretty hairy,' she said."

The story went on to say a shot was fired at officers who had responded to a fight outside the Sapphire Lounge.

It just stopped me. Surely, this wasn't little Columbia, Mo., she was talking about, was it?

Bizarre.

One of the roles of a newspaper is to help citizens separate rumor and facts and to put events in context.

On Monday, a graphic by Kevin Young and photo by Chelsea Goodwin helped explain the chronology of events on Clark Lane at Hominy Creek. You could see the golf cart bridge that Chris Crocker clung to as his car was covered by water and could imagine Runkle as she attempted to reach him.

Other questions — where were the road-closing signs?, for instance — were asked and answered in stories.

The scene downtown later in the week is a story still in search of answers as I write to you Thursday afternoon. We need to know more, much more, in order to determine whether this fight was some indicator of a larger problem.

I hope and expect my Missourian to enlighten us all.

Tom