KY3 FLASHBACK: Emergency managers remember West Plains, Mo. flooding from May 2017

Published: May. 31, 2019 at 5:37 PM CDT
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When the skies unleashed on the evening of April 29, 2017, the rain came with overwhelming intensity. Nearly eight inches fell in less than a couple hours. The flooding was immediate and severe.

If you weren’t there to see it, this may sound crazy, but Howell County Emergency Manager Mike Coldiron describes the flooding like this.

“It was like looking across a lake that had a town in it that was floating,” said Coldiron.

Flowing water was everywhere, and in many places it was never expected. The worst was 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 was in some homes and countless businesses. Suddenly the city and the county was immersed in an emergency unlike any before it. Coldiron says there were more than 100 water rescues in the county, many of those in the city. The 911 system was overwhelmed.

And then...

“The city of West Plains had to shut down power to the entire city, because water was getting into the substations," said Coldiron.

Even major highways leading out of West Plains were inundated, leaving no way out of town that night. The record-setting torrent sent the North Fork River 10 feet over the Hammond Bridge before it was finally ripped away and deposited downstream. In the days that followed, the scope of the damage was devastating.

“People will remember it," said Coldiron. "And I think it’ll be talked on about for years, maybe in the history books someday.”