Flooding in Eastern Jackson County reached historic levels over the weekend, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Multiple emergency services have been dispatched to handle the outpouring of water from two levee breaches in Levasy – the first happening Saturday morning – as many homes were damaged or completely ruined. The sheriff’s department estimated that approximately four and a half miles – or about 2,800 acres – were impacted.
Members of the community affected by the flood are using the United Methodist Church on Hudson Street as a shelter, and according to American Red Cross Supervisor Carolyn Frost, the volunteers on-site have so far been able to provide aid to those seeking help.
Some families, according to Frost, left the flooded areas with only the clothes on their backs, or lost their entire herd of livestock, and the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined.
“This is going to take time,” she said. “We’re in the infancy of the tragedy.”
Frost said they currently have eight to 10 individuals sleeping on cots overnight in the church, but others come in and out throughout the day to meet basic needs such as meals and hygiene supplies. As of Sunday night, the basement of the church has been opened as an animal shelter, providing crates for family pets and giving their owners a place to keep them dry and safe while they recover.
Frost said that down the road, the American Red Cross will assist in organizing an event with several disaster-relief organizations under one roof, helping victims register for benefits from entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United Way.
“We usually get a big haul,” said Frost, describing the number of organizations that typically attend similar events.
The team is currently well stocked on supplies, sending daily updates on what they need, according to Frost, and are not currently accepting donations. However, Frost said this may change in the future as the situation develops. If they do open the call for donations, residents seeking to give should know they are not accepting pre-prepared food from the public, due to certain restrictions by the health department.
Residents needing assistance can visit the supply table to receive items such as dry towels and shampoo, and can eat three meals a day at the church shelter. Frost urged even those impacted who have a place to stay to visit the shelter and speak with an American Red Cross volunteer to help meet their needs.
Additionally, regardless of where they’re staying, the Fort Osage School District has opened its doors for free summer school to provide children with a structured, safe environment to keep kids engaged and to help alleviate the stress of the parents affected by the flood.
Fort Osage Fire Chief John Yocum said emergency response teams, which include the Fort Osage Fire Department, the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, are currently waiting for waters to recede and monitoring the levees. However, they are not waiting to send disaster information to FEMA. Yocum said they used drones to gather details on the disaster, taking photos from the air to send to the organization.
Yocum said the process of submitting disaster information can take awhile. The information is given to FEMA, which inspects the submission before sending to the governor, who then submits it to the federal level. While the information is being passed along, impacted residents must wait for government-related aid.
“We’re trying to do it as quickly as possible; that’s why we used drones,” Yocum said.
According to him, the team inspected the area using FEMA’s guidelines, and the majority of the structures qualified as having received “major flood damage,” which will allow them to qualify for government aid.
Yocum said they are also making a plan for debris removal once the water does recede, focusing on clearing the streets and having Jackson County Public Works assess any damage done to the roads.
“Once we clear our roads we’ll have the debris picked up and removed to a different location,” Yocum said. “We’re also getting resources ordered to assist with pumping out basements.”
Yocum added they are also looking at longer-term shelter options for occupants who don’t have family or friends to stay with.
“Because it’s going to be a long process,” he said.
More updates on the impact of the flooding and the relief efforts will be made available as they develop. As of the time of publication, U.S. 24 on the eastern edge of Buckner to the Lafayette County line is closed to drivers.