Sense of community bonds Waynesville residents in flood aftermath

Saturday, August 10, 2013 | 9:09 p.m. CDT; updated 5:39 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 11, 2013
Waynesville began the task of cleaning up and sorting out possessions after a flash flood tore through the town on Tuesday.

WAYNESVILLE — Sophia Hannan did not get six candles on her birthday. She got a flood instead.

The Hannans' rented ranch house on Dyer Street flooded on Tuesday morning when Roubidoux River overflowed in Waynesville, a town of 4,830 in Pulaski County. Dyer Street sits across a low bridge, still covered with a foot of water, from Old Route 66, which runs through the center of town.

Waynesville has seen flooding similar to that experienced by areas farther south in Missouri and in parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kansas. According to the Associated Press, Missouri has seen the worst of the recent flash floods, which have resulted in heavy damage and even death.

Sophia’s mother, Susan Hannan, 33, counted her blessings. The water had not reached her grandmother’s bedroom where old family photographs and memorabilia were stored. An angel painting leaned against the wall behind the door in the only room in the house that Susan Hannan said had not been damaged at all.

“We’re gonna need help for a while, but we’re very blessed,” Susan Hannan said. She is grateful for the way the Red Cross, soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, law enforcement members and neighbors have banded together to help each other.

“(They are) some of the most caring people in this part of the country that you’ll ever meet,” Danny Marcum, 57, said. Marcum has volunteered for the Red Cross for several years. He said he loves helping people who are hurting.

Volunteers from the Red Cross handed out cleaning kits to people throughout Waynesville all day Saturday. The kits contained hand sanitizer, bug spray, brooms, mops, gloves, a squeegee, a bucket and sponge, Clorox, Pine Sol and other cleaners. They hand out whatever food was donated by restaurants.

The Red Cross emergency shelter housed an average of 10 to 15 people each night, Mike Miller, 53, the shelter manager said. It opened on Tuesday night and is the only open shelter in the area. About 10 staff members operate the shelter 24 hours a day, along with 30 or more volunteers. The shelter’s need is assessed daily, Miller said. He did not know how long it would remain open; it will be based on the community's need.

Few injuries were reported as of Saturday evening. Those that were have been minor, though people getting help from the Red Cross have been treated by paramedics and at local emergency rooms for medical issues such as low blood sugar, Mary Jane Aufdengarten, RN Health Services for the Red Cross, said. Local organizations and churches are providing transportation to "shot clinics" that will vaccinate people against tetanus and other flood-related illnesses.

About 20 soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood volunteered to clear debris and clean homes Saturday, 2nd Lt. Edward Wilson said. He was stationed at the military base for an engineering class. His class had organized the volunteer day. The soldiers plan to continue helping the community as often as their schedules permit.

Across from Susan Hannan’s house on Dyer Street, Ted Basford, 76, sat on his front porch watching family members clear debris. He had just finished renovating his bathroom and kitchen and installing new windows and siding. His porch was two weeks old.

“The only thing I had left to do was put new carpet down,” Basford said.

Basford said he walked outside to go to work at Fort Leonard Wood’s mess hall at 4 a.m. and saw five feet of water in the street. He went back inside and started calling his neighbors, but the power went out. Two women who lived next door sat on his porch with him and watched the water rushing down the street.

Basford was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood eight separate times, between serving in the Korean and Vietnam wars and living in several other states. Waynesville, however, is home.

“Waynesville used to be a boppin’ town.” Basford said. People came from the surrounding towns to shop. But a flood in 1975 washed away many of the small businesses, and the town was hurt economically by the Vietnam War, when so many soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood were deployed.

Basford was filling out an inventory form for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But not everything could be replaced. Water had soaked his family photos.

“Fortunately, all our people are safe,” Jerry Tyler, 44, said. Tyler owns Wagner Trailer Park. The park, composed of 22 trailers and one house, sits on the banks of Mitchell Creek. Tyler estimated that he had lost about $50,000 for the whole park. Renters’ individual losses, he said, could be much higher.

Wagner has about 40 residents. All except one, Tyler said, receive a fixed income or public assistance.

“That’s the thing that gets me," he said. "These people have nothing."

Two double-wide trailers used as classrooms at Wayneville R-VI 6th Grade Center were not tied down. The flood pushed them across the school grounds, depositing them at the entrance to the school’s parking lot. That, Tyler said, diverted the water into the trailer park, causing serious damage.

Double-wide trailers can weigh between 40,000 and 45,000 pounds, Tyler said. Metal straps tied down the trailers in Wagner. Tyler is unsure if it kept them from being swept away by the water. Only one of his trailers was destroyed.

Chunks of asphalt and cement bricks littered the grass. Abandoned cats drank out of puddles. Mosquitoes buzzed over pools of stagnant water.

“It’s just amazing how strong water can be,” Tyler's wife, Jodi, 44, said.

Community efforts to help those most affected by flooding continue. The Pulaski County Republicans are using Waynesville Pawn & Gun, located on Historic Route 66, as a central point for collecting donations.

Mike Rouse, 60, the club’s president, said their efforts were not political but were based on a sense of community. Fifty to 60 volunteers had collected more than $5,000 since Wednesday. The club has a permit for 60 days and intends to use it for the entire time. Donations of cleaning, school and baby supplies go to Good Samaritan, a faith-based relief organization in Pulaski County.

Kristine Stone, 59, a member of the club, said it seemed like word spread quickly once it became clear Waynesville residents needed help. She emphasized the town's strong sense of community.

“It makes you very, very proud and humbled to live here.”

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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