One year later: The New Year Flood - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

One year later: The New Year Flood

A rail bridge submerged in early January of 2016 (Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters) A rail bridge submerged in early January of 2016 (Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters)
Many residents used boats to reach their homes during the flood. (Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters) Many residents used boats to reach their homes during the flood. (Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters)
(Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters) (Source: Loreto Cruz, KFVS. Aerial support provided by Cape Copters)
  • Related LinksMore>>

  • New Year Flood

    New Year Flood

    Get the latest on flooded roads and flood conditions in the Heartland.

    Get the latest on flooded roads and flood conditions in the Heartland.

(KFVS) -

At least 25 people between Missouri and Illinois were killed, tens of thousands evacuated, and even more still suffer millions of dollars in damage as a direct result of the Mississippi River flooding in late December of 2015 and early January of 2016.

Known as the “New Year Flood” in the Heartland since several levees failed on January 1, the flood was abnormal.

In most years, a round of high water along the Mississippi river bank is expected during spring, but weather events and high river stages ravaged coastal towns for hundreds of miles along the river in the middle of winter, leaving many people unprepared.

Shortly prior to the one year mark, cleanup remains the story for most in the low-lying areas of Alexander County, Ill., although many folks have abandoned hope of recovery altogether.

“If nothing’s done, in 15 or 20 years, there may be no one here,”  said Hodge’s Park area resident Jean Ratliff. “There were children and there were families before, and all of the children have gone because there’s nothing here. No jobs. They graduate they go to college and they leave. If the levees aren’t cared for, everyone suffers.”

One of the largest and most detrimental levee breaches along the local riverbank was the Len Small Levee near Miller City, Ill.

The same levee failed in the historic floods of 2011 and was originally patched by local farmers.

Ratliff’s home was flooded in 2011 and she received federal grants to rebuild.

“I got it all put together again, and for a while I was just so happy to be back in a decent house,” Ratliff said in early December. “For it to happen again so quickly… less than 5 years all over again… and at my age I don’t know how much I can take. I don’t think I can take another flood.”

Before finishing repairs in 2011, the US Army Corps of Engineers assisted.

This time around, more than a mile of the levee remains non-existent, and more than 30,000 acres of farmland and residential areas are hopelessly exposed.

“The people here are looking for a permanent fix,” said Alexander County Board Chairman Chalen Tatum. “Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of us here locally to fund one. We need some kind of help.”

While some efforts to repair the levee began throughout the year, the levee’s future remains largely in question.

The project is currently not eligible for repair by state or federal aid standards.

“Our biggest hope was an amendment to a federal bill,” Tatum said earlier in December. “As it stands, we don’t qualify for federal aid to fix the levee. The amendment would have changed the requirements and may have given us funding."

The amendment Tatum referred to was sponsored by U.S. Congressman Mike Bost, but failed.

The bill passed in early December with no changes that would help the effort.

Regardless, Ratliff does plan to stay in her home.

In early December, she received federal assistance to lift the entire structure several feet into the air, protecting it from future floods.

“It’s been tough but there have been blessings too,” Ratlif said. “At least there’s a house standing, and at least I have friends to help. It does pay to take your eyes off of yourself.”

In part, she was referring to an effort by First Baptist Church in Harrisburg.

The congregation spent weeks helping residents dig out after the flood, and has vowed to help continue work for residents like Ratliff, who choose to rebuild.

“And that’s what I’m thankful for. People who didn’t even know me, or those that I’ve known for a long time, and they just pitched in and helped”

Ratliff lives temporarily with relatives and is still in the process of remodeling.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly