Flooded Poplar Bluff Prepares For More Rain

Originally published on April 27, 2011 12:36 pm
Copyright 2017 KRCU. To see more, visit KRCU.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Let's move on to other news now here. This week's severe weather has killed at least 11 people in Arkansas. Some of the deaths came in the town of Vilonia, north of Little Rock, where the survivors of a tornado include Sally Lanum(ph).

SALLY LANUM: It went right through our front yard. You could see the rotation, the cloud. And we could see debris flying. But it missed our - missed the house. It took the pool(ph) shed and knocked down huge trees.

INSKEEP: Elsewhere in Arkansas, a tornado did not spare the house where Richard Bass and his family were taking shelter.

RICHARD BASS: Listened to windows shattering, doors slamming, and then heard the roof go. And I just held onto the doorknob for dear life. Doorknob in one hand and kids in the other.

INSKEEP: Farther north, 15 inches of rain have fallen in Poplar Bluff, Missouri over the last couple of days. That town is about 150 miles southwest of St. Louis. And it's now depending on a saturated levy that has already been breached in places downstream. Here's Jacob McCleland of NPR member station KRCU.

JACOB MCCLELAND: I'm standing about as close to the Black River as I can get. The river cuts through the middle of downtown Poplar Bluff, which makes this flood particularly dangerous. Beyond some partially submerged trees, you can make out the tops of some bleachers, hinting at the location of a baseball field that's otherwise lost beneath the murky waters.

MARK DOBBS: The levee is so small, sometimes, you know, I think of the lack thereof, the levee versus the levee itself.

MCCLELAND: That's Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs. He says trying to protect the town of 17,000 with sandbags just won't work here. The tired, saturated earthen levee is only four feet tall in some areas and it stood no chance against the weight of all that rushing water from the Black River.

DOBBS: I don't know what is would take to put enough sandbags. I mean, we're talking about 15 miles worth of levees.

MCCLELAND: Some flood victims, like Chrystal Pigg and her family, have been at the Coliseum since Sunday. Her mother lost her home in a flood three years ago, and now she fears that the river will sweep away her family's belongings too.

CHRYSTAL PIGG: Like baby pictures and baby outfits that your kids, you know, wore, you know, that gets ruined, you can't get that back. It's gone. You know, and like personal documents and stuff. You know, you can't - I mean home is home, you know.

MCCLELAND: Other evacuees, like Alfred Vaughn, have been through this before. He recalls fleeing the Black River in 1946, riding on a mule with his father. This time he had to leave behind a horse that he had raised from birth.

ALFRED VAUGHN: When the water comes up like that, just nowhere to take him, you know. Nowhere to go. I didn't have a horse trailer. I'm sure it's going to be alright. I'm sure he'll - he'll stand in the water a little while (unintelligible) go down, won't hurt him.

MCCLELAND: For NPR News, I'm Jacob McCleland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.