|Friday, May 13, 2011|
During the period from Sunday, April 24th, to Monday, May 2nd, the skies opened up and drenched the Jacks Fork and Current River watersheds with 21 inches of rain on already saturated ground. The rivers rose quickly, which forced their closure to floaters and boaters. Rising water eventually flooded campgrounds, trails, picnic areas, roadways, and facilities such as restrooms, pavilions, electrical systems, staff offices and fee stations. Southeast and central Missouri received heightened national media coverage due to river flooding, road closures, levees being breached, overtopping of emergency dam spillways on Lakes Wappapello and Clearwater, stresses on levee systems, and the blowing up of levees to reduce these stresses by the Army Corp of Engineers. The water has since receded and the park has begun assessments and recovery efforts. The Midwest Region All Risk Management Team, headed by James Hummel as incident commander, is in the park coordinating the damage assessment and recovery efforts. Much progress has been made by park staff, who are often working beyond normal schedules to restore flood damaged facilities. Many areas are open on the Upper Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, except for areas with hazards such as large root wad in the river, mud and debris on roadways, washed away boat ramps, and wet and muddy restrooms. The Lower Current River section of the park bore the brunt of the flooding. A major roadway culvert leading into the Big Spring Campground has been undercut. Engineers will be arriving to assess the cut and also evaluate the structural integrity of the Big Spring Branch Bridge. Limited areas in the Lower Current District are open at this time. A near miss occurred when visitors overturned their canoe as they attempted to float over a flooded low water bridge at Cedar Grove, which is normally a portage. One canoeist was sucked into a whirlpool and was swept into a flooded culvert underneath the roadway. The quick action of by park maintenance employee Jerry Cook, who was nearby, pulled the three individuals to safety. As of May 11th, with 60% of the restoration estimates in, damages are at $458,280.