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Along Missouri's Waterways, Flooding Brings 'Total Devastation'


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The winter flood that slammed Illinois and Missouri over the last week is being blamed for at least 22 deaths. Now the surge of rainwaters moving south threatening more committees along the Mississippi River and the towns that were hit hardest around St. Louis are taking stock of the damage and beginning a long cleanup. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: I'm walking over frozen mud at the edge of the Bourbeuse River. This is just outside Union, Mo. This river erupted, really exploded from its banks and ran right through the low-lying parts of this community. People are just starting to sort out what damage this has done.

JIM HANNON: There's about four foot of water inside the house.

MANN: That's Jim Hannon. This river just southwest of St. Louis has receded now, and he's sitting in his car outside his battered, white house. The walls are smeared with mud and the front yard littered with debris.

HANNON: Everything's pretty much gone.

MANN: So what do you folks plan to do?

HANNON: Move I guess (laughter).

MANN: They have no insurance, he says. That's a common story here in this town of 10,000. A lot of people either couldn't afford flood coverage or they thought they were on safe ground when the waters started rising. Reverend Beth Elders is working in a Red Cross shelter down the road in Manchester, Mo. They've shifted from offering food and beds to handing out five-gallon buckets filled with cleaning supplies.

BETH ELDERS: Everything from sponges to scouring pads to work gloves to detergent, clothes pins, a little bit of everything - the small things and some of the things that begin to get in short supply in many of our stores immediately following a disaster.

MANN: More than 500 buckets have gone out so far and she says more are on the way. But rubber gloves and clothes pins won't start to touch some of the mess caused by this flood.

CARRIE DICKEY: OK, well, we're just setting up some lights and taking it step by step. Do you know where they took all of the work lights? Did Paul...

MANN: That's Carrie Dickey talking to her dad on the phone. They own a huge hardware and lumber store here in Union called Dickey Bubs. It was square in the path of the river.

DICKEY: It's a complete devastation. We've taken at least six to seven feet of water throughout the building. So we have a lot of cleanup to go.

MANN: Do you mind just taking me right inside and letting me look? I won't go too far in.


MANN: Oh, there's some smell, too.

DICKEY: Well, it's hard to imagine if you've never seen six feet of water take over of 47,000 square foot building - total devastation, destruction. All our hard work has been destroyed in a very short period of time.

MANN: She shakes her head and turns to get back to work. All the interstate highways in this area did reopen on Friday, though many smaller roads remain impassable. With these towns shifting from crisis to clean up, St. Louis County has lifted its state of emergency. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Columbia, Mo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.
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