Miller County Emergency Management Director Barlow Biggers says the county hasn’t seen Osage River flooding like this in 30 years.
As of 11:00am Wednesday, Biggers says 30 county roads and three highways had been closed or are under water. He says the fire department had also already had to respond to three swift water rescues, which were all successful.
“We had an incident where people were hanging on to a tree to keep from getting washed down the road and the fire department and ambulance were unable to get there because of high water, so they just had to cling on for a while,” Biggers said.
Biggers says because of the closures due to high water, there are many residents in the area that are stuck on the resulting “islands,” without a safe passage to leave their homes or businesses.
Biggers says the County Commissioner has declared a State of Emergency, and people in Camp Bagnall and Tuscumbia are being asked evacuate as the situation develops and water levels continue to rise.
National Weather Service estimates show the Osage River rose more than 6 feet in 24 hours, and is up by more than 12 feet since last week.
Biggers says a factor that will likely escalate the situation is that Ameren Missouri has opened the flood gates at Bagnell Dam. Ameren says that was scheduled to occur at 8:00am Wednesday, but the utility had to wait until about noon for word that all campers had cleared the area.
An Ameren spokesperson says 45,000 cubic feet per second of water is being released into the Osage River, slightly lower than was originally expected. He also speculates that since the rain has stopped in the area, people may not actually notice a rise in water levels if the original flooding has a chance to recede.
According to the national weather service, the area has received about two inches of rain in the last 48 hours, but Biggers estimated totals closer to 10 inches based on local reports. He also says they’re keeping a close on the forecast, as more rain is expected in the area Thursday.
Biggers says he has requested assistance from MODOT to see if it can provide machinery to help fill up washouts on county roads with gravel. He says flood prevention methods like sandbagging won’t get them very far in this situation.
He says once water is released into the Osage River from Bagnell Dam, it will not only increase the Osage’s levels, but will also affect the smaller creeks and rivers that feed into the Osage. He expects the water to back up into those feeders as well and cause further flooding.
For now, Biggers is recommending drivers be very cautious on the roads, and remember that it only takes six inches of running water to move a vehicle.
He says the Red Cross is setting up a shelter for people displaced by the flooding at the Christ the King Lutheran Church on Bagnall Dam Boulevard in Lake Ozark.