Saturday I drove on Highway 100 to Hermann, crossed the Missouri, and returned using 94. The weather was sunny and mild, which makes it hard to take a flood, seriously. Luckily for the people of Hermann, and all points east, several levees broke along the Missouri further north and west and the level of water didn’t rise to be a threat. Not so luckily for towns such as Big Lake, which ended up under water.
If this had been 1927, I would have been suspicious of the levees breaking. Back then, people from one town would sneak over to the levees protecting homes and fields upriver along the Mississippi and would seek to blow them up in order to protect their own homes. It’s a measure of how far along we’ve come as a people that no community would even consider such action today, even if it makes sense to do such–flooding a smaller community such as Big Lake to protect larger, such as Jefferson City or St. Charles.
At a boat launch along a tributary that flows into the Missouri, I chatted with a fisherman who had come up to check the water levels, and then decided to do a little fishing. Though boats were barred from the Missouri, they were safe along the smaller streams.
Hermann is a charming town with several interesting and old buildings, most in excellent condition. It wasn’t a particularly friendly town, but I imagine the people were stressed from the worries of the flood all through out the week. By the types of shops and the number of hotels, it’s a town that would welcome tourists. It also has a winery, and it looked like restoration of a beautiful riverfront hotel was underway.
The water came up to, and overlapped, the town’s waterfront park and flowed into what was probably a small creek running through the town. The creek’s banks were overflowed, but no homes were damaged or threatened.
Farm fields were inundated all throughout the region. The flooding isn’t a problem to farm land, because it brings new top soil. However, this was yet another delay on the growing season and we’ve had so many already this year.
Along the way on 94, I did see homes that would probably receive some water damage. Most were old mobile homes, with heaps of rusted junk in the yard. One might say, what loss would there be with places such as these, but they were homes for someone–usually someone who can least afford the damage.
At one spot, where the water threatened to flood over 94, I had stopped by a flood warning sign to take pictures of the river. As I looked down the very short hill, I noticed snakes swimming past–dozens! They had all been drowned out by their ‘homes’ and were trying to find a place to climb up the hill. Even a mild flood has consequences to the native flora and fauna. Consequences both good and bad because such flooding is responsible for the rich soil that keeps the state green, and the animals fat and happy.
Back in Hermann, across from the waterfront park was a colorful bait shop that was cut off from the road leading to the park. I walked across the tracks and to the front of the building, but couldn’t continue further–there was a locked gate across the path, prevent access to the tracks. The older gentleman who lived there yelled out to a couple of young folk to check his mailbox, because he couldn’t get to it.
The fence had a sign that started with, “Smile you being watch” and all throughout the yard, painted American flags with “God bless USA”.
I never noticed the levees, as much as I did with this drive. Before, they were part of the landscape–regular hills among the natural, irregular ones. However, when you’re driving along next to a levee that’s protecting the road from rapidly running, huge quantities of water, you notice every single one. What was stunning was realizing that the levees miles away from the roads were built because of the flood of 1993, and that most of the road I traveled on Saturday had been underwater a scant 14 years before.