Volunteers work to bring life back to flood-devastated Thomasville
Floodwaters last weekend inundated this small historic community in Oregon County. Now residents and volunteers are thinking about how they’ll rebuild.
The Eleven Point River was swollen again on Thursday, but not nearly like it was last weekend. It went down on Monday but rose again on Wednesday and Thursday after more rain fell.
“This little community was devastated,” said Lee Simmons, Oregon County Emergency Management director.
The record breaking flood covered the unincorporated town, which dates back to 1803.
“Everyone got out okay. I think we had five people we had to rescue the night of the flood. We had one left, and we got him early the next morning. He stayed upstairs in his house,” said Simmons.
Simmons says, out of the 45 homes in Thomasville, only two are still livable. The rest are still covered in mud. He says they all had water from four to eight feet high. The flood also went through a community center that doubled as a library, three businesses, a fire station, and two churches.
The volunteer fire department lost a tanker truck that firefighters were using to try to rescue people from their roofs. The rescues had to be completed with boats.
“It was unbelievable the amount of water that came through here. It's just unreal,” said Bill Coats, a volunteer with Missouri Citizens Militia.
Not many residents were around on Thursday but volunteer groups have been here all week, working to help residents recover. In addition to Missouri Citizens Militia, Christian Aid Ministries also sent volunteers. They're going house to house, removing whatever was ruined in the record flood.
“Monday, this little community, we had 276 volunteers show up ready to go to work. The last two days, the rain has slowed us down, but we're still getting things accomplished,” said Simmons.
“We are a statewide group, and we're constitutional militia, answer to our governor, and we're just here to help these folks out, because they need us. That's what we do,” said Coats, describing the Missouri Citizens Militia.
Residents here will have to start over, as little is salvageable.
“A little old lady, I'm going to guess, probably in her 90s, lived there. And we carried her out of her house. Ninety years of memories and it went on the burn pile. And then we saw the family bring her in and show her what was left of it, and it was pretty bad,” said Coats.
Volunteers hope their helping hands are enough to bring life back to Thomasville.
“It's going to take some time, but I think they're going to pull together. We don't want to see Thomasville disappear,” said Simmons. “It's one of the oldest cities in the state of Missouri.”
Thomasville, population about 70 before the flood, was once the county seat until the courthouse burned down and the government was moved to Alton, about 10 miles southeast. West Plains got its name from Thomasville because it was “west of Thomasville Plain.”
Employees of the State Emergency Management Agency met with residents on Thursday afternoon at a church in Rover, just southwest of Thomasville, to talk about what government help might be available.