JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Days of rain and record levels of swollen rivers devastated the Show-Me State this week, and as Missourians now look to recover, members of the government and private sector are looking provide relief.
The floodwaters claimed the lives at least two people in Missouri while wreaking havoc on homes and businesses across the state. It also shut down traffic to many parts, with the Missouri Department of Transportation reporting more than 300 roads closed due to flooding this week.
Gov. Eric Greitens declared a state of emergency over the weekend and has traveled around the state to the affected areas throughout the week.
“Our administration is taking a new approach to disaster response: “Go big and go early,” Greitens wrote in a Facebook post. “We pre-positioned swift-water rescue teams all over the state. They have already conducted hundreds of rescues and evacuations.
“Over the past few days, thousands of National Guard troops, state employees, first responders, and volunteers came together to fill a million sandbags. It’s clear that while these flood waters will reach historic heights, the preparation and bold actions of our people will save lives and property.”
Earlier in the week, he spent time working with responders and volunteers to fill and pack sandbags in Eureka in preparation of the floodwaters and visiting with those affected by the flooding in Van Buren and Neosho.
So impressed by the resilience of the people of Neosho. First responders and folks on the ground are strong in the face of suffering. pic.twitter.com/gfl8obvP80
— Eric Greitens (@EricGreitens) May 1, 2017
On Thursday, the Republican governor headed to West Plains, one of the areas that had been hit hard by flooding. He had previously been scheduled to visit on Monday, but could not make it there due to a sinkhole opening up and preventing travel on the route.
“The people of West Plains are strong,” Greitens said. “Their town has come together in this storm to take care of each other. I’m looking forward to thanking and praying with the volunteers, first responders, and others who have been working to protect their friends and neighbors.”
Earlier in the week, Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced the activation of a disaster relief program for Missouri small businesses and farms impacted by flooding.
“Flood damage can be a significant financial setback for small businesses and farms, which are the backbone of Missouri’s economy,” said Schmitt. “My team is working hard to ensure those impacted by this weekend’s flooding can affordably finance water removal, restoration, and reconstruction.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson’s office has reached out to 52 Missouri counties that were directly affected by the flooding this week.
“We have spoken directly with 92 commissioners, sheriffs, mayors, emergency managers, and chiefs of police to offer assistance in locating resources or relaying messages to state agencies,” he said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by the flooding across our state, and my office will continue to be in contact with state and local agencies to offer any assistance we can as communities begin the cleanup and rebuilding process.”
Attorney General Josh Hawley announced this week that he is forming a Natural Disaster Rapid Response Team in the Attorney General’s Office to help victims of the flooding that has devastated the state.
“We are mobilizing all available resources to help Missourians protect themselves and their families after this terrible flooding,” Hawley said. “Our attorneys and consumer advocates are here to help you get back on your feet. And we are here to go after scam artists and fraudsters who would prey upon the vulnerable.”
Our office has created a Rapid Response Team to aid victims of recent flooding. Learn more here: https://t.co/PrqEQgh2bS
— AG Josh Hawley (@AGJoshHawley) May 2, 2017
Consumers can contact the Rapid Response Team at 1-800-392-8222.
Hawley is also sending lawyers and advocates to Red Cross shelters and agency resources centers in flood-ravaged areas.
The American Red Cross has been working tirelessly alongside volunteers and first responders, and relief efforts are underway as waters begin to subside.
Ameren Missouri announced on Thursday their contribution of $25,000 to the American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri to assist with relief efforts.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by this latest flood,” said Ameren Missouri President Michael Moehn said. “Our crews have been working around the clock to safely assist customers affected by torrential rains, and we hope this donation will provide additional assistance.”
“Thanks to the generosity of philanthropic companies such as Ameren, the Red Cross is able to assist members of our community who have been impacted by the rising waters,” said Cindy Erickson, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri. “Ameren continues to be a generous partner of the Red Cross and to the communities they serve. We are grateful for their continued support of our mission.”
“The recent floods have impacted and displaced many Ameren customers and employees,” said Moehn. “We are fortunate to have the American Red Cross supply and coordinate outstanding relief efforts, and we are pleased to support them as they assist members of our community during this time of need.”
Other companies have also joined the efforts, with UHaul offering 30 days of free storage for flood victims in southwest Missouri and Airbnb waiving their service fees to those affected by flooding.
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) May 3, 2017
The Missouri Department of Insurance also put out a release on Thursday, requesting that all insurers licensed in Missouri allow coverage to remain in effect for any Missourian who resides in a county where severe flooding has occurred. They also asked them to consider providing a grace period during which impacted Missourians can take actions necessary to keep their policies in force.
“The department appreciates the assistance and cooperation of insurers as Missourians continue to recover from this historic and unprecedented flooding event,” Chlora Lindley-Myers, director of the department, said.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.