Morehouse Community Heals, Rebuilds After Spring Flooding

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Release date: 
June 20, 2011
Release Number: 
1980-067

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Little more than a month ago, Morehouse residents could only watch and wait as the flood waters swept through the southeast Missouri town. Since then, help from various state, federal and voluntary agencies around the country has flowed into the small, close-knit community of nearly 1,000. Support for this community continues as Morehouse residents battle to rebuild.

Record spring rains overwhelmed the elaborate web of ditches, levees and diversion channels that make up the Little River Drainage District, near Morehouse, formed in 1907 to drain the lowlands that stretch across seven counties in the Bootheel.

When flash floods hit the town in April, about 280 homes, or two-thirds of Morehouse residences, sustained water damage, according to Jim Allen, the head of a special U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) task force assigned to Morehouse only 10 days after the floodwaters receded. Seventy of those properties have been condemned, he explained, with as many as 50 of them slated for removal.

Morehouse residents were devastated after the floodwaters receded, Allen said. "They really struggled, and were just overwhelmed. It is definitely a huge undertaking" Allen explained. "Tackling a project of this magnitude required the whole community, including federal and voluntary agencies, to work in partnership to spur Morehouse's recovery."

This is where FEMA's Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs) began their work. The VALs assessed the community's needs then made contact with various voluntary agencies that could help the community take the necessary steps to recover.

A team of 10 members of AmeriCorps Hoopa Tribal Civilian Community Corps, or Hoopa TCCC, were some of the first to answer the call. Working in Morehouse for more than a month, the team stripped homes of wall studs, ceiling joists and flooring to retard the growth of black mold.

The Hoopa TCCC, is comprised of members from different Native American tribes across the country. Teams are deployed to service areas like Morehouse as the need arises. To date the group has mucked-out and repaired 52 homes in Morehouse.

"The team put in long hours mucking-out flooded homes, and repairing them to pre-disaster conditions," said Allen. "For most of the team, this is the first time they have done disaster work. They got right to work, and did a tremendous job here."

Once volunteers arrived to help, community members began coming together to help one another. More work is still to be done, Allen said. Morehouse still needs skilled construction volunteers to finish the 14 homes left to repair.

"They now have relationships with local voluntary agencies and faith-based groups that will carry them through the recovery phase of this disaster and into the future," explained Allen.

Individual flood survivors in New Madrid County have received $4.2 million in disaster-relief funds, including FEMA disaster grants and disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since the disaster was declared May 9, 2011, this figure comprises nearly 20 percent of federal disaster monies awarded in the state.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government's primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of othe...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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