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Flooded Areas in Phelps, Pulaski Counties Becoming 'Like an Island' Due to Closed Roadways

This road near Dixon, Missouri, was washed away this week. (Photo credit: Waynesville Pulaski County MO facebook page)

Rivers and creeks in south-central Missouri usually known for their gentle meandering have turned into murky, roaring waterways; a four-year-old boy drowned in the floods near Waynesville. Mandatory evacuations are in place in parts of Pulaski and Phelps counties, and numerous roads are underwater. As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, the flooding is so severe in the Waynesville and St. Robert area, one sergeant with the Highway Patrol compared it to an island, since many roads leading there are closed.

This was the sound of the front desk in the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop I Headquarters in Rolla today:

[Sound: Phones, "Highway Patrol...until the water recedes, sir. I can't tell you how long it's going to be..."]

Stranded motorists were calling the patrol’s *55 number needing help or directions for an alternate route. The Missouri Department of Transportation closed sections of Interstate 44 south of Rolla and U.S. 63 in Maries County after about 6 inches of rain fell Wednesday morning. Several homes were evacuated in the Phelps County town of Newburg.  Much of Waynesville was evacuated Tuesday.

Many of the routes heading to these areas are also closed due to water over the roadways, or in many cases, because parts of those roads have been washed away.

The search for the missing woman believed to be the boy’s mother continues.  She’s the only person missing due to the floods at this time, says Sergeant Dan Crain with the Highway Patrol. She and the boy appear to have been swept from a vehicle.

“We know that they were on a county road north of the interstate. There was a tributary there that, probably, they were just trying to cross at night. It could very well have been a situation where they  just didn’t realize how deep the water was, and they were just trying to cross,” Crain said.

That tributary runs to Mitchell Creek, which runs into the Roubidoux River, which runs into the Gasconade; authorities are searching all of those waterways for the missing woman, Crain said.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has deployed 50 military policemen from the Missouri National Guard to help in the effort to save lives and property. Meanwhile, those creeks and rivers that have breached their banks are spilling into farmland in many counties throughout the Ozarks region, threatening the safety of those living there, as well as their homes, livestock and crops.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.