Flooding impacts blue jays of all ages
Published December 2015
This is a breaking news article that I composed in under 24 hours for Blue Jay Journal TV online. If you visit this LINK, you can see the full news package. We wanted to cover the flooding as quickly as possible to keep the community, including our high school students, updated on recent events. On December 30, 2015 I took a trip around town to examine and photograph the conditions. I spent the rest of the day piecing together interviews for a compelling story. I feel that this is a solid breaking news article that conveys an important message of safety to our community.
Rivers flow through and around the Washington School District. It’s no coincidence that Washington School District's Career Center goes by the official name of Four Rivers.
During Christmas Break, rivers raged out of their boundaries due to a historic late December rainfall. As result, Governor Jay Nixon issued a State of Emergency for the state of Missouri on Sunday, Dec. 27.
The event leaves businesses flooded, homes ruined, roads closed and people feeling cut off from their typical routines.
“Even though I live in Marthasville, my life is here in Washington,” WHS senior Ben Heggemann said. “I am trying to find a job here, I go to school here, and all my friends are here. If the roads (and bridge) close, I get cut off from a big portion of my life.”
This fear nears reality as water from the Missouri River inches closer to Highway 47 just north of the Washington bridge. As of Wednesday afternoon, surrounding fields remain flooded, with the water stopping less than five feet from the road.
While Highway 47 is still accessible past the Washington Airport, water completely covers the highway between Dutzow and Marthasville. This portion of the highway remains closed after being blocked off by MoDOT on Monday night.
Traffic has been redirected onto Highway 94 through Dutzow; however, only one lane remains open past Dutzow Deli, with a temporary signal in place to direct traffic.
On the opposite side of Washington, traveling to and from Union was nearly impossible until Wednesday morning.
“I was unable to go into work at my job in Washington since I live in Union,” WHS senior Alissa Bruckerhoff said. “47, 100, Highway 50 and even I-44 are blocked. The only way to get to Washington would be to go through Sullivan, which would make my trip take almost an hour compared to my usual 15 minute commute.”
The intersection of Highways 47 and 50 in Union was closed Monday due to flooding from the Bourbeuse River. Water surrounded local businesses, including the newly-opened Jimmy John’s, Dickey Bub, QuickTrip, McDonalds and Jack in the Box, causing them to close.
Employees began to evacuate the Dickey Bub Farm and Home store off of the Highways 50 and 47 intersection Monday morning.
“The owners thought the water was only going to enter the Union store at 3.5 feet, so all of the employees worked tirelessly inside the store to get the most expensive items out,” 2007 WHS Alumni Andrea Boeckmann said. “At that time, the water was about 15 to 20 feet from entering the front doors of the store."
Boeckmann has served as a graphic designer and marketing lead for Dickey Bub since August of 2012 and is astonished by the reality of the flooding.
“It's been an emotional couple days. I work so closely with the owners of the business and feel like I'm part of their extended family,” Boeckmann said. “I hate to see this happen to their business which they’ve worked so hard to make a success.”
This week’s flooding is widely comparable to the historic floods of 1982 and 1993. Water levels in Union reached six inches higher than 1982’s record of 33.8 feet, with the Bourbeuse River cresting at 34.3 feet on Wednesday.
Flooding also affected areas to the east of Washington, including Pacific, Eureka, Fenton and further into St. Louis. A majority of the city of Pacific was flooded as of Wednesday afternoon, and the campus of Eureka High School was surrounded by water as well.
“My family and I were on our way home from my grandma’s house in Fenton on Interstate 44 by Antire Hill when police cars were stopping traffic,” WHS senior Mekenna Wieda said. “Then we got to the front and traffic was stopped because of flooding and we had to drive through it.”
According to the Automobile Association at www.theaa.com, flooding is a natural killer that can appear at any time. Drivers should remain cautious when traveling in dangerous conditions and are urged to avoid passing through bodies of water. Cars can easily be swept away by more than six inches of water, and roads may not be safe due to the weight and wear of the water on the pavement.
“I’m really glad we had driven my Jeep that day so our car sat up higher, and we could drive over the water,” Wieda said. “The flooding also affects my parents' business since there is a creek right next to their building in Dutzow. So it’s stressful hoping the water doesn’t reach the building.”
The flooding has created stress for business owners and residents in Franklin County, as well as loss.
“My dad owns land and clubhouses on the Bourbeuse River, and two of the clubhouses have floated away due to this flood,” 2007 WHS Alumni Stacey Schroeder said. “We never imagined the water getting as high as it did, but it is the second time in my dad’s lifetime that it has been near this level.”
In a time of need and tragedy, community members support one another through generosity and volunteer work like sandbagging. Residents have widely spread news updates and kind words via social media.
Upon seeing the impact of the flood on her neighbors, 2014 WHS Alumni Alex Veilleux took to Facebook to offer her assistance.
On December 29 she posted, “If anyone needs help with anything and is being personally affected by the flood, don’t be afraid to reach out to me and ask for help. Whether you need help moving, money, or a place to stay. Just say the word and I got you.”
In effort to support the flood victims, the City of Union was overwhelmed with donations. As of Wednesday afternoon, city officials encouraged people to donate their items to harder hit areas such as Pacific, Valley Park and Eureka. The Four Rivers Area YMCA in Washington has opened its doors to victims of the flooding to utilize their showers and locker rooms as well. Grace's Place Crisis Nursery is also available for children during the day.
Water levels in and near our school district are expected to decrease over the following week after Wednesday evening’s crest, but residents are urged to proceed with caution and follow the National Weather Service’s slogan: “Turn around, don’t drown.”