COLUMBIA — Heavy rain Thursday and Friday closed dozens of roads across Boone County, pushed area creeks and streams out of their banks, caused flooding in area homes and businesses and prompted a handful of emergency rescues.
More than 4 inches of rain fell on Columbia from Thursday to Friday afternoon, and more was on the way Friday evening. Severe thunderstorms were sweeping across central Missouri and bearing down on Boone County. The National Weather Service had issued two severe thunderstorm warnings for the county by 5:30 p.m., and weather service radar indicated more were possible.
Boone County was under a tornado watch until 10 p.m. A flood warning also was in effect for Boone and surrounding counties until 7 p.m., and it appeared likely that would be extended.
The rains wreaked havoc on Columbia's trail system, leaving large portions of the MKT Nature-Fitness Trail, the County House Branch Trail and the Hinkson and Bear Creek trails entirely submerged in some areas. Trail tunnels also were so choked with debris that they were either impossible or too dangerous to pass through.
Forester David Dittmer of the city Parks and Recreation Department wrote in an intraoffice memo provided to the Missourian that all the major trails were considered impassible.
"Many trail sections have large amounts of flowing water over them, and there are large-scale washouts and scour holes in several places. Forum Nature Area and Scott Blvd are both under water."
On the MKT, just west of the parking lot off Forum Boulevard in southwest Columbia, the swollen Hinkson Creek was flowing swiftly over a lengthy section of the MKT.
Once the water recedes, crews will be able to assess the damage. Dittmer wrote that he hoped to get workers out over the weekend to do "preliminary damage control."
Flooding at Females in Training
On the other side of Forum Boulevard, rain water was pouring from the ceiling, bubbling up through drains and seeping in under cracks in the doors at Females in Training in the wake of Thursday night's and Friday morning's storms.
The rain began to come in through the ceiling below a flat section of roof at FIT around 4 p.m. Thursday. It poured into offices, the locker room and the play center. Insulation in the ceiling became soaked with water, and many of the tiles will have to be replaced.
“We basically had a rain storm from one end of the building to the other,” FIT employee Victoria Scott-King said.
FIT closed early Thursday, and the outdoor pool had to be closed as workers used the deck surrounding the pool to store items take from the flooded rooms.
"It was quite the party," Scott-King said.
On Friday morning, the FIT facility, which shares a building with the Missouri Athletic Center and Wilson's Total Fitness Center on the south side of Hinkson Creek east of Forum Boulevard, was flooded again. When FIT opened, the main lobby, offices and locker room floors were covered in water.
"When the creek’s high, it’s really hard for it to drain, so water will just come out of all the drains; the shower drains, the toilet drains, that kind of thing,” Scott-King said.
Wilson's was having similar problems; its lower level flooded with sewage. Sewage sometimes backs up into buildings when large amounts of storm water enter the sanitary sewer system.
Crews perform rescue work
Earlier on Friday, a woman was rescued from her house in the 3000 block of Northland Drive after being trapped by flood water from Bear Creek, which had overflowed its banks.
"I've lived here my whole life, and I've never seen it get like this," said Stephanie Key, who lives in Haden Park, a mobile home community off Northland Drive.
John Metz, a spokesman for the Columbia Fire Department, said that as of early Friday morning only the woman on Northland had required help from the department. Her name was not available.
Jason Kane, a resident of the trailer park, said he noticed the flood waters around 8:30 a.m. when they surged over the top of the road.
Kane said a tree fell, causing debris to get caught under the bridge and making the flooding worse.
Also Friday morning, crews from the Columbia Fire Department and the Boone County Fire Protection District rescued an adult male whose car became stranded in flood water near Old Plank Road and Forum Boulevard.
"We have had about nine storm-related calls so far today," Metz said in a Friday afternoon news release. "... Residents should be aware of local conditions, heed special weather statements and never drive through flooded roadways."
Dozens of roads closed
About 5:30 p.m. Friday, the Columbia/Boone County Office of Emergency Management was reporting a total of 45 road closures because of flooding. Those included Scott Boulevard at Hinkson Creek and Brushwood Lake Road, nearly all of Gans Road, Route WW at the North Fork of Grindstone Creek and Route E at the Twin Bridges over Perche Creek.
Persistent, heavy rainfall Friday set a record of 3.66 inches for May 31, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record of 1.57 inches was set in 1969.
Total precipitation for the month of May was 9.79 inches, making it the eighth-rainiest May on record. During last year's drought, rainfall for May was 1.31 inches. The record for May rainfall was set in 1943 at 13.3 inches, according to the weather service.
Year-to-date precipitation for 2013 was 26.75 inches as of Saturday afternoon. The record for the period Jan. 1 to May 31, set in 1995, is 27.14 inches. That year was the 13th-wettest in Columbia, with 48.24 total inches of precipitation.
The rain also pushed Hinkson Creek to impressive levels. At 1 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported the creek was flowing at 9,850 cubic feet per second, the fifth-highest level the creek has reached since the USGS began keeping records in 1967. Higher levels were recorded in 1979, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The highest level recorded was 14,200 cubic feet per second on April 30, 2009.
Hinkson had dropped to 6,170 cubic feet per second by 4 p.m.
Missourian reporters Allison Wrabel, Laurien Rose and Jordan Newland contributed to this report.