SURVIVE THE STORM: Preventing the high costs of flooding

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. -- On a mid-March 2019 afternoon, Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman looks over the Roubidoux Creek.

Recent rains have it slightly above it's normal level. It's not an uncommon sight for Hardman.

"I used to love sleeping in the rain. A good thunderstorm made me sleep so well," Hardman said. "But, since that morning, in 2013, if it rains, I rarely go to bed."

That August 2013 morning Hardman still loses sleep over was an uncommon sight for Waynesville.

"My police chief at 4:00 in the morning rang my doorbell," Hardman recalled. "The first words out of his mouth were, 'Mayor, you need to come. We're in trouble.'"

The Roubidoux Creek had flooded as expected.

But, they had a bigger problem.

The Mitchell Creek had also overflowed it's banks.

"I would say the water was on it's way to the top of this embankment," Hardman explained to KY3/KSPR's Andrew Havranek. "At some point, this is called Ichord Road, and at some points, that was covered."

That flood claimed the lives of Jessica Lee and her four-year-old son, Elijah. They were in their car when passing a low water crossing.

"How could that little car get through that little hole? And as a matter of fact, it did. It swept her and her son away," Hardman recalled.

Aside from Jessica and Elijah's deaths, the 2013 floods cost the city of Waynesville $1.3 Million in infrastructure damages.

So, the city did a number of things they hope prevent such a costly flood.

They built bridges over low water crossings at Old H and Dyer Roads, eliminating low water crossings from the city limits.

After being flooded, they moved the Street Department away from the Roubidoux, so vehicles wouldn't be ruined in flash flooding.

They've also committed to regular tree trimming and cleaning culverts around the city.

The city also collects gravel from the Mitchell Creek, which often collects near the bridge on Dyer road, cleans it, and uses it for projects. The mayor says this saves them tens of thousands of dollars.

Waynesville has also re-routed an electric feeder line from the banks of the Roubidoux. Damage to that during floods in 2017 caused about half of the damage the city faced.

The flood in 2017 cost nearly $200,000 in damages. Hardman says it was less expensive because of all of that work they did.

"Rainwater, flood water, it's always going to be a problem for Waynesville," Hardman said. "I think we need to learn to live with it, and that's what we've tried to do in the last six years."

There's still over eight months left in 2019, and it's impossible to know what Mother Nature decides to throw at us. But, the mayor of Waynesville says they'll be ready for whatever comes their way.