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In Rocheport and Huntsdale, perception of flooding hurts businesses

Thursday, July 21, 2011 | 7:34 p.m. CDT; updated 7:42 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 21, 2011
Gary Smith, treasurer of the Rocheport Area Merchants Association, works at his store, Two Sisters and Me, in Rocheport on Thursday. Since news of flooding began, Smith has had an estimated 45 percent decrease in revenue at Two Sisters and Me.

COLUMBIA — People in two Missouri River towns say the perception that their communities are flooded is hurting business.

"I may go under," said Larry Horning, owner of Trailside Cafe & Bike Shop on the Katy Trail in Rocheport. He said the perception has killed business in gift shops and bed-and-breakfasts.

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Missouri River flooding closed a two-mile stretch west of Rocheport at the end of June, but residents say floodwater has had little effect on their ability to operate their businesses this summer.

“It’s just the perception that it’s flooded here,” Horning said.

Conrad Yates, owner of Yates House Bed & Breakfast Inn, estimated he has had 10 cancellations this season due to concerns about flooding in Rocheport.

"We are a small town," he said. "Tourism is our business — that's what we do."

But Yates acknowledged the impact river flooding has had elsewhere. “No one wants to take a vacation in a disaster area,” he said.

The Missouri River has been flooding southward from the Dakotas since June. In Missouri, the flooding has prompted the closing of state parks and the evacuation of northwest counties.

"I'm sure the residents along the Missouri River and other places have experienced many problems and perhaps personal disasters to their homes and businesses," Yates said, "but those conditions are not at all present here."

Gary Smith, owner of Two Sisters & Me gift shop and treasurer of the Rocheport Area Merchants Association, said he has seen at least a 45 percent drop in revenue since news of flooding began.

“No customers means no revenue,” Smith said. “It gives me a lot of time to do bookwork.”

Nancy Lewis of White Horse Antiques said she thinks the flooding may have stopped people from coming to Rocheport.

"In June, it seemed like our traffic was down," Lewis said.

On the Boonville gauge Thursday, the river was 25.48 feet, 4 1/2 feet above flood stage but not high enough to flood much beyond low-lying rural areas and some roads.

“Below 31 feet, we’re good to go,” Yates said.

Most of Rocheport sits well above the floodplain. Even in 1993, when the river crested at 37 feet, floodwater didn’t reach the center of town.

Areas southeast of Rocheport have experienced flooding. Katfish Katy's, the principal riverside business in Huntsdale, closed the lower campground, but continues to offer recreational vehicle and tent sites protected from the river by a 31-foot levee.

The campground's lower sites flooded twice last year, but remained open.

“There was a lot more fear this year, fear of the flood, than there was last year,” said Linda Lou Brown, who owns Katfish Katy's.

Brown said she is concerned that visitors assume the water is at the same level at every place along the river.

“We live here, so if we were in danger we’d pack up and get out,” said Trisha Barnes, a camp host at Katfish Katy's.

The Sunday blues jam at the campground has been moved from the bandstand to in front of the camp store.

Brown said the closed lower campground was a favorite for visitors. “They like to camp by the river, which is not protected by a levee," Brown said. "They like to watch the sunset over the river; they like to watch the moon rise over the river.”

Barnes said 10 to 12 customers canceled this summer because they were wary of flooding.

“The campground really isn’t rockin’ when we don’t have campers,” Brown said.

The Katy Trail passes in front of the camp store, which is set back from the river. Because flood barriers are in place, the river would need to reach 34 feet to close the trail at Rocheport. Some parts of the trail near Rocheport flood when the river reaches 26 feet.

The trail is open between Rocheport and Huntsdale.

Farther south, Cooper's Landing owner Mike Cooper said flooding caused him to cancel several music events this summer.

Cooper's website reminds people that Easley River Road, which leads to the landing, is closed. 

Easley River Road is under a foot and a half of water, Cooper said Thursday.

Earlier this week, Smith Hatchery Road was under 4 inches of water, but on Thursday it was dry. When both roads are flooded, local traffic drives on part of the Katy Trail to access the next road.


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Comments

Corey Parks July 21, 2011 | 10:06 p.m.

What have the business owners done to let people know they are not actually flooded. As far as I could tell from the news on tv and the new papers that every place along the river was flooded. I never go there anyway since I work too much in the summer for vacation but maybe they could have taken out some ads in Columbia or surrounded areas to come visit.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders July 22, 2011 | 3:25 p.m.

While there is obviously truth to this story, tourism in general is far more impacted by the collapsing economy, led by the destructive actions of the not-Federal not-Reserve Bank with their "Wall St." bailouts (read: European banks) over the last three years. Add to that the disaster that is fedgov spending money they don't have, consuming precious resources that would be better used to meet human needs, and one might notice the edge of the debt cliff approaching (as well as the depletion of seed corn that we consumed on credit instead of planting).

Rising food and fuel prices, as well as the increasing cost of debt service do not make for a tourism economy, but an impoverished one.

Until the banks are displaced from their privileged position, there will be no improvement, but further destruction, as there is no other consequence of trying to live on credit cards.

(Report Comment)
Lisa Friedemann July 22, 2011 | 6:28 p.m.

Rocheport's tourism website at www.rocheport.com and our own website at www.schoolhousebb.com cleary states Rocheport is 'high and dry and open for business'; they also have a link to current and projected Missouri River level information for visitors to consult when trip planning or give us a call and we'll let you know what current conditions are. Cycling east from Rocheport to Huntsdale along the river and bluffs and even into Columbia has not been adversely affected by water levels this year. And as of this week, the Katy Trail going west from Rocheport to Boonville is also open for cyclists to enjoy. So come on out and enjoy a Rocheport getway with great food, wine, shops and B&B's.

(Report Comment)

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