THOMASVILLE, Mo. – People who live in this small, historic community in Oregon County say the Eleven Point River pretty much wiped it out last weekend. People lost their homes, vehicles, and other property.
Presiding County Commissioner Patrick Ledgerwood says 48 of the 58 homes in this community on Missouri 99, about 35 miles east of West Plains, are heavily damaged or destroyed. The town's community center, which housed a branch of the county library, also was flooded, as were two churches and the Thomasville Rural Fire Department. Ledgerwood says the water knocked many of the buildings off their foundations.
Ledgerwood says the river has risen here previously but never flooded out all the buildings like it did on Saturday. He said the buildings all had four to eight feet of water in them. The Eleven Point starts near Willow Springs, about 40 miles northwest of Thomasville, and flows into northeast Arkansas, where it joins the Spring River just west of the Black River.
During the flood, Ledgerwood said, several people had to be rescued from roofs, including one family with children. The commissioner said volunteer firefighters used their tanker truck to rescue people until the water floated the truck away, destroying it. He said people in boats rescued others.
"People are still in shock," Ledgerwood said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Ledgerwood said volunteers from Oregon County, other counties, and other states have been helping people in the community. As of Wednesday midday, he calculated, volunteers have spent about 2,500 hours in Thomasville.
"We've had unbelievable support," Ledgerwood said.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith visited the community on Tuesday. He promised to do what he can to make sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides help, once the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) sends its report.
“In spite of the devastation, members of the community have been taking care of each other. Anyone who needs assistance should go to the Shiloh Baptist Church located off M Highway in Oregon County,” Smith wrote on his Facebook page.
Ledgerwood said a meeting with people in the community is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at Shiloh Baptist, which is in the community of Rover, a few miles southwest of Thomasville. He said a SEMA representative plans to be there.
Ledgerwood says people displaced from the 48 damaged homes -- about 70 people -- are staying with relatives and friends. He said Shiloh Baptist offered to let people stay there, if needed, but didn't think it had many takers.
The commissioner said many county roads and bridges are damaged but Thomasville is the place with the most private property damage in Oregon County. He said county officials have learned about some other homes damaged along the Eleven Point River near the Irish Wilderness, which is part of the Mark Twain National Forest east of Thomasville and Alton.
Thomasville was founded in 1803 and was one of the earliest towns in what is now southern Missouri. At one time it was a county seat until a fire destroyed the courthouse, and the county seat ended up in Alton. Ledgerwood said West Plains got its name from Thomasville because it was west of Thomasville Plain.