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KY3 FLASHBACK: Historic flooding slams SWMO in late-April, early-May 2017

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 6:01 PM CDT|Updated: May. 2, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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WEST PLAINS, Mo. (KY3) - Historic flooding devastated many communities in southwest Missouri four years ago.

A strong storm system produced multiple rounds of thunderstorms and torrential rainfall that lead to the flooding. Heavy storms rolled through the Ozarks for several days, starting the weekend of April 29, 2017.

Daily rainfall totals surpassed nine inches for some areas. Flowing water was everywhere, and in many places it was never expected.

Some of the most significant damage happened along Howell Creek, which cuts through West Plains from the northwest and down the east side of the city, through part of the business district. Water entered countless homes and businesses, while emergency crews performed more than 100 water rescues in Howell County.

At the time, West Plains had to turn off power in fear of flooding at the city’s substation. Many of the roads remained covered with high water into early-May.

“It was like looking across a lake that had a town in it that was floating,” said Howell County Emergency Manager Mike Coldiron in a 2019 KY3 report. “People will remember it, and I think it’ll be talked on about for years, maybe in the history books someday.”

Dogwood Canyon, a parcel of land on the Missouri-Arkansas border reported more than 20 inches of rain from the storm system. It took six months for the area to reopen to the public.

“I was at ground zero watching whole trees and stumps and boulders and things being moved that none of us had ever seen happen,” said Chad Phillips, Dogwood Canyon’s Park Director in a 2017 report. “I don’t think any of us expected it to be as devastating as it was.”

Gainesville, Missouri and surrounding communities also suffered significant damage. Flooding hit the Tecumseh Bridge, damaging asphalt and cutting off sources of open water days after the storms.

Community members helped with the clean-up efforts, while also making an effort to preserve wildlife. In a video captured by KSPR in May 2017, a group carried over multiple fish that had been washed away from the Norfork River, carefully releasing them back into water.

A preliminary assessment estimated there was nearly $86 million of damage and costs from flooding and storms statewide during this storm system, including $58 million of public costs for damage to infrastructure, debris removal and emergency response efforts.

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