Van Buren, Mo. recovers 1 year after flooding wiped out the community

VAN BUREN, Mo. A year ago most of the Ozarks was underwater due to historic flooding.

Creeks and rivers swelled out of their banks washing out homes and businesses devastating entire communites.

Van Buren, in Carter County was especially hard hit. The town continues to struggle to fully recover.

"Water was everywhere. It was like a big lake," says Billy Moses.

Kathy Seronello says, "We just watched the water come up."

"Down the street there was a house that was moved completely off it's foundation. On the main street there was a store that was completely gone," described Moses.

No one in Van Buren thought the Current River would travel a half of a mile, uphill and wipe out most of the town.

A major loss was the First Baptist Church. The entire building had to be demolished. Right now, there are no plans to rebuild due to lack of funding.

Other businesses are slowly trying to rebuild and reopen.

"It was a catastrophic event and we all had to kind of learn as we went," says Curt Majors, with the Office of Emergency Management for Carter County.

He knows better than anyone how difficult dealing with the flood was when it happened.

"I don't know if I can narrow it down to one thought. It was just an overwhelming experience.
It was kind of a mixed emotion of who do we need to notify first, who's in harms way, who's already evacuated. It was just a mixed bag of emotions I guess."

Sorenello didn't think she'd lose her house.

"I had noticed water in the basement. I was pumping it out. It got a little too much for me and I got tired so I came upstairs and sat in my recliner," she explains.

Her break didn't last long.

"I heard a knock on the door and everything started," she says.

The water started pouring into her house.

"10 minutes. I had 10 minutes," explains Sorenello about how long she had to flee.

A year later you can still see piles of trash around the streets of Van Buren. However, the recovery efforts are making great progress.

"We have had so many volunteers, so many sweet people," says Sorenello.

People like Billy Moses with Catholic Charities.

"We have groups coming in right and left," says Moses.

The organization coordinates volunteers, who come from all over the country, to help rebuild areas devastated by natural disasters. So far, they've helped to rebuild several houses and help many others who are anxious to get back home.

"People who couldn't wait on us they went ahead and started doing their own," says Moses.

Soronello is about a month away from moving back into her house.

"Look at this. You can tell. The kitchen is almost completely in. All the painting is done. All the walls are up. Everything's almost done. I'm so excited," she says.

The rest of the town is just as ready for life to get back to normal.

"I think we're on the right path. We're on a hopeful path to recovery. I think if everything keeps going as it has so far we'll come out a better community in the long run," says Majors.

The total cost of damage in Van Buren is just over $13 million. FEMA paid for most of the recovery efforts.

The rest of the money used to rebuild has come from private donations.