Record-setting heavy rain Friday caused up to $200,000 in damage to county roads, and officials are hoping a federal disaster declaration will provide money to help pay for repairs.
Some sections of northern Boone County roads remained under water Saturday. David Mink, director of the Boone County Public Works Department, said areas around Harrisburg and Hallsville suffered the most damage. Floodwaters eroded many roads. “It put tremendous pressure on drainage pipes,” Mink said of the day-long storm. Many pipes were washed out, he said, because road debris clogged them, allowing water to collect and erode the surrounding soil.
Mink cited one report of an 8-foot pipe on Carr Lane, north of Harrisburg, that had been loosened by erosion and carried 200 feet downstream by flood currents.
He estimated the total cost of cleanup and repairs will reach $100,000 to $200,000.
The Public Works Department plans to apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We’re hoping this will be declared a FEMA emergency so we can get more help,” Mink said.
The repairs, he said, could take several weeks to complete.
The gauge at Columbia Regional Airport measured a record 3.93 inches of rain between midnight Friday and midnight Saturday, according to the National Weather Service office in St. Louis. The previous record for a one-day March rainfall was 3.88 inches in 1990. The gauge at the Sanborn Field weather station at MU measured 2.91 inches of rain on Friday.
Meanwhile, a cold front approaching mid-Missouri late Saturday prompted the weather service to issue a flood watch for much of the area, including Boone County. Another one to two inches of rain was forecast to fall on already saturated ground as the slow-moving front traveled across the area. Thunderstorms were expected to end around noon today.
On Friday, sections of 49 roads were blocked by floodwater at one time or another. While rural roads were most affected, Columbia streets were not immune as storm drains were unable to keep pace with the deluge. Many intersections were nearly flooded, and some mobile home parks were affected.
On Northland Drive, cars in a trailer park were almost half submerged by floodwater that ran off streets from a neighborhood up a nearby hill. Witnesses said firefighters responded to a call about occupants trying to escape a mobile home surrounded by water, and a pickup truck that tried to drive through the current was spun around before making its way out.
“We have seen flooding in areas where we’ve never seen it before,” said Rob Brown, chief of staff for the Boone County Fire Protection District. Some areas were flooded because they were in the paths of runoff from construction sites.
“Any time you rework the landscape, you have new paths for water to travel on,” Brown said.
So many roads were flooded that the Public Works Department lacked enough street barriers to block them all off. Brown said the fire district had to supply yellow “caution” tape to create barriers.
Ken Hines, assistant chief of the fire district, said firefighters responded to nine water rescues Friday. Most were “self-rescues,” in which people escaped from their stalled vehicles before help arrived, he said. Two, however, involved people trapped in their vehicles, and firefighters had to use rescue boats to get them out.
Both the city and county fire departments urged motorists to avoid trying to drive through moving water.
Flooding also took a toll on farmers, even though few have begun planting. Leanne Spurling, who rents farmland along Hinkson Creek and was visiting the Columbia Farmers Market yesterday, said the swollen stream swept away tons of topsoil.
“If you lose your topsoil, you’ve lost a lot,” Spurling said. “It moves your best soil away.”