Clark Mountain Musings

Monday, December 19, 2005

From the Viburnum, MO Yahoo Group site

Details about the flood (Upper Reservoir) by Johnny C. Jones

Wednesday morning Dr. Greenlee's nurse called from Potosi to askabout the roads. "There's been a break in the reservoir, and thewater's flooding into the Black. We just wanted to know if we couldget there from here."That was the first I heard about the breach in the Taum Saukreservoir above Johnson's Shut-Ins, and below Taum Sauk mountain.Thursday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlines blared, "A Wall ofWater."

"Desperate Search: Firefighters struggled through cold,flooded darkness to find a family of five." "More than a billiongallons of water rushed down Proffit Mountain."We were first concerned for the Toop family, washed from their bedsat the Park Ranger's home – Jerry and Lisa, with their children, 7-year-old Tanner, 3-year-old Tara, and baby Tavis, just 7 months.

Thepicture on the Channel 2 evening news (Fox) showed their house atJohnson's Shut-Ins completely obliterated. I wasn't the only one whopictured the nightmare it must have been, to be swooshed away from awarm home, not knowing what was happening, disoriented, cold, afraid.The Toops were carried away at least a quarter mile by the tsumaniof water. Lisa was found with Tavis and Tanner. Jerry was foundhanging in a tree, Tara beneath a cedar tree. One of the rescuers,firefighter Ryan Wadlow said, "We knew they were out theresomewhere. The good Lord was with them."Two truck drivers and the driver of a car climbed onto the roofs oftheir vehicles to escape the flood (as much as 20').

One of thetruck drivers directed rescuers towards Jerry Toop, according toChannel 2 News, who then told them about his wife and threechildren.The problem was caused by a pump that didn't shut off when itshould. Ameren UE used the 55-acre, 90 foot deep reservoir togenerate between 2% and 3% of its power. The dirt and gravel dam hada concrete liner, a big one. An additional rubbery liner was addedlast November, since it was leaking.Our friend Bill Blair told about one of the most frighteningexperiences of his life:

Landing on that reservoir's concrete linerin a helicopter. (No, he wasn't flying it).Several Lesterville residents had to be evacuated due to the break.To us, this is more than an interesting news story. Besides ourconcern for the Toop family, we have personal associations, bothwith the reservoir and the Shut-Ins.Chip and I hiked with our children to the reservoir from Johnson'sShut-Ins years ago. We were amazed at the size and at the hugeamount of concrete in the reservoir. The water looked so very deepand forbidding.

I told Chip, "If you ever fell in there, you couldnever get out!"We hiked up from the Shut-Ins just a few months ago, intending to gosee the reservoir again. But my poor sense of directions caused usto miss the split in the trail that went towards the reservoir. Welooked back and saw it from up the trail.We couldn't help thinking – what if this break had happened duringthe spring or summer, when the campground was full? When the Shut-Ins had cars waiting in line to be admitted, while dozens of peoplesplashed in the river and lay on the rocks?

When people were hikingthe trail?I can't count how many times we have hiked the trail up fromJohnson's Shut-Ins. We went there when Amy was toddling down thepath, not even two years old. We took our nieces and nephews whenthey came to visit, and they all loved it. I told my nieces, "It'slike Elephant Rocks with water! We celebrated our 32nd anniversaryby hiking there.There are people who say the Shut-Ins may not be recoverable.

If that is true, what a tragedy! Those rock and water formations havebeen part of our life! I told my nephews, "It's like natural waterslides." To my mind, the Shut-Ins are what water parks try tosimulate. And water parks can't touch the beauty of the bluffsacross the river, or the wild variety of the trail.I've written articles about the Shut-Ins, which I will pass along toyou.

Facts from St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/15/05 http://www.stltoday.com/

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