My heart aches for many of my friends in the Ozarks tonight.
They thought they had witnessed Mother Nature at her worst in 2015, when devastating flooding cut a wide swath and stopped recreation in its tracks.
But this might be worse. After a weekend in which the Branson and Lebanon, Mo., areas received 6 to 10 inches of rain, the Ozarks looks like one big, raging river.
State officials say this is record flooding, worse even than the 2015 natural disaster.
- Popular float streams such as the Current, the Niangua, the James, the Meramec and the White all have spilled out of their banks and have turned into angry whitewater waterways, flooding cabins, houses and businesses along their banks.
- Flood-control reservoirs are doing their jobs, preventing an even greater disaster. But they, too, are being stressed. The water level at Table Rock Lake, for example, has climbed to the top of the flood pool, some 18 feet above the normal top of the power pool, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing a torrent of water through the dam.
- Lake Taneycomo, which lies directly below Table Rock, is taking the brunt of those releases. It, too, is flooded and some docks and resorts have already been damaged.
- There also has been major flooding at Norfork, Beaver and Clearwater reservoirs.
- More than 350 roads in the Ozarks have been closed due to water over the pavement. Some bridges have been washed out, and officials are monitoring others.
- Missouri’s four trout parks – Bennett Spring (shown here) , Roaring River, Montauk and Maramec Spring – all have experienced flooding, and Kids’ Fishing Day events scheduled for Saturday at Bennett Spring and Montauk have been postponed.
- The Missouri Highway Patrol’s Water Division and the Department of Conservation performed numerous water rescues of Ozarks residents who were trapped by the rapidly rising water.
- North of the Branson area, things aren’t good at Truman, Lake of the Ozarks or Pomme de Terre reservoirs either. Truman is 11 feet high and has been sending a torrent of water into Lake of the Ozarks, which has in turn been dumping it through Bagnell Dam. Pomme de Terre is 20 feet above normal pool.
- The Corps of Engineers announced Monday that it is reducing releases from Truman, Pomme de Terre and Stockton due to flooding in the Osage River basin.
Addressing the situation at the trout parks, the Department of Conservation said, “These are historic floods. The cleanup will take weeks.”
Elsewhere, popular tourist areas such as Branson and towns along the Current River are reeling. Though city officials emphasized that the stores in the popular Branson Landing shopping area are open for business, few dare fish the raging waters of Lake Taneycomo, at least from a boat anyways.
Guides are still catching bass at Table Rock, though the fishing pressure has dropped dramatically.
Still, Ozark residents are showing their resolve. They’ve been through this before and they survived. They will again, they say.
On the bright side, the trout fishing at Taneycomo should be outstanding once the lake settles down. Many shad should be flushed from Table Rock into Taneycomo, creating a feeding frenzy among the trout.
But for the time being, lake and river-area residents in the Ozarks aren’t thinking about the fishing. They are concentrating on getting through their latest challenge from Mother Nature.
Photo by the Missouri Department of Conservation.