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Interstate 29 opening helps Northwest Missouri businesses recover after summer flooding

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 4:16 p.m. CDT

ST. JOSEPH — Northwest Missouri business owners are optimistic that the opening of Interstate 29 after a summer of flooding will bring back customers after a detour steered them away.

After being closed for nearly four months after the Missouri River flooded, a section from Rock Port to near Pacific Junction, Iowa, reopened Saturday.

Some businesses didn't survive the sharp drop in customers, The St. Joseph News-Press reported Tuesday. The Squaw Creek Eagle's Nest near Mound City, which provided food, gas and a hotel for truck drivers, closed over the summer.

"The flood basically shut the place down for us," said Tim Rhodd, chairman of the executive committee for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. And Rhodd said some prospective buyers were balking at the possibility of more flooding in the future.

Holt County Clerk Kathy Kunkel said Tuesday that she's noticed a small increase in traffic since the interstate reopened.

"I, personally, saw a significant adjustment of semi-trucks (Tuesday). So we would hope that would have an impact at the register receipts here," she said.

With U.S. Highway 136 and U.S. Highway 159 still closed, businesses are still missing some customers. Holt County has already lost about $100,000 from its annual $1 million annual general budget, Kunkel said.

"We still have lost the entire summer season, when most people are vacationing and traveling through the area. The fall traffic is not nearly what it is in the summer," Kunkel said.

The Black Iron Grill in Rock Port also was hit hard by the highway closing, losing more than half of its customer base.

"I think as time goes along, we're going to get it back to where it was before," Black Iron Grill owner Rick DeBuh said. "It's just going to take a little while for people to realize the roads are open and the fuel stop's open and we've remained open."

While sales tax revenue won't be tallied for several months, areas such as Holt County are preparing for big losses that would affect equipment and road rock purchases.

"We're going to be down to the basics to operate for another year or so, until we're able to see how the resources are going to be reallocated as the interstate comes and people decide to build back," Kunkel said, who doesn't expect true progress until next year.

 


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