Heavy rainfall around Missouri this summer has affected enough counties that Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month announced damage assessments in preparation for a federal disaster declaration request.
Moniteau County has been one such county that has grappled with the effects of large amounts of rain water on county roads.
Moniteau County Commissioner Clint Hoellering said the heavy rains this year have been a "struggle" for the county to tackle, starting with a particularly hectic period in June. During the course of two days, Hoellering said "tornado-level winds" wreaked havoc and left brush and debris on roadways such as Happy Hollow and Lupus roads, leading to 10-hour days for a seven-member crew of road workers. Then, residents were reporting high rainfall accumulation — first eight inches, followed by five inches, of rain.
Hoellering said there were wash-outs county-wide, causing some residents to be unable to travel away from their homes. Eventually, he said, the county had to pull every road worker from the county's two separate crews to help.
"I was getting calls from people saying 'I don't know how I'll get to work today,'" Hoellering said this week. "It was so bad. It's an extreme damage, not to mention all the aggregate, the rock it takes away."
Then even more rains came, during June and this month. At the present, Hoellering said the county is trying to get things started back up as normal and dealing with the aftermath.
Part of that process, he said, has been working with Moniteau County Emergency Dispatch Director Kevin Wieberg, along with the Joint Damage Assessment Teams formed following Gov. Parson's announcement this month — those groups are made up of local emergency managers like Wieberg and representatives with both the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Hoellering said he has a lot of positive things to say about Wieberg, who's been a great help to the county in tackling this particular challenge. Hoellering and fellow County Commissioner Rick Messerli have also been aided by one habit they've worked to instill in their road crews — keeping detailed journals documenting their daily work, and taking photos in the worst-damaged areas, especially.
"In the past, there's been money missed out on due to lack of documentation," Hoellering said. "So that right there, those hand-written books, documentation daily from the guys and everything, that right there really got the ball rolling."
Hoellering said the county visited those areas with SEMA to estimate the damage cost, which as of this week he said he would guess sits at well over $100,000 — "And we're not even done yet," Hoellering said.
The county is still working to document other fix-ups resulting from the damages, but the current figure accounts for man hours, comp time, machine use and material used on the roads, Hoellering said.
It eats into the county's budget, Hoellering said, so the hope is that the federal disaster declaration moves forward. He said that seems very likely — per Gov. Parson's announcement, both state and county thresholds would need to be met in order for a county to be included in the request, and Hoellering said he'd guess Moniteau County will be able to meet its threshold, allowing for some recoup of funds.
"This is one of those things where you dig deep in your budget," Hoellering said. "This is why you don't push the button so much, just because the money's there. You do what's necessary, but you kind of hold off."
It comes down to "wants" versus "needs," Hoellering said. That diligence means that, budget-wise, the county is "okay" — the extra county funding approved by voters via Proposition P last year has also helped tremendously to that end, he said.
As for what's next, it's a waiting game. Hoellering said things need to play out at the state level now, with statewide damages accumulating to a certain dollar amount threshold. Then, the response can advance to the federal level. At the very least, he said, the County Commission and Wieberg have "learned a lot" from the FEMA team, and county workers should now be more knowledgeable in the event of any future challenges like this one.
Crews are back on route re-rocking areas, Hoellering said, but the county more or less has had to start over at square one. Some roads, though, held up pretty well thanks to some of the work crews completed around the county earlier in the year, he said.
"I appreciate the help of everybody; my guys, like I said they put in a lot of hours," Hoellering said. "And I just appreciate people's patience. You can't beat Mother Nature, but a lot of people have been understanding and they appreciate the showing."