Tarkio Adjusts to Life After I-29 Reopens

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When flooding along the Missouri River forced I-29 to be closed down from June through October in much of Missouri and Iowa, travelers started getting creative with the routes they took, and that led to a sudden boom for one small town.

And now that the flooding is over and I-29 back open again, residents say that they have some mixed emotions about the whole ordeal.

Tarkio, Missouri, population 1,900, sits right on Highway 59, just off of I-29, and after a bustling summer, they say life is getting back to normal, and for the most part they like it.

On Thursday, JoAnn Driskell of Tarkio calmly assembled a sandwich for no one in particular, since there's hardly a soul at the Casey's General Store she works at. But that wasn't the case earlier this year, as during the summer months, the number of people passing through Tarkio daily greatly surpassed the town's population.

The city's police chief says about four to six hundred more cars per hour went through Tarkio on Highway 59 because I-29 was closed, and suddenly Casey's General Store was swamped.

"Non-stop traffic, non stop people, in and out constantly through here," said Driskell.

Police were swamped too.

"We had a lot of traffic, a lot of extra traffic," said Tarkio Police Chief Tyson Gibbons.

Gibbons said traffic tickets doubled over the summer, and locals described it as a mess.

"Driving in it in a small town like this, it doesn't work," said Driskell.

As far as business is concerned, some say, it wouldn't hurt to have that traffic return.  Since I-29 reopened and the visitors have stopped coming around, cash flow has taken a hit.

"It's been horrible, really slow here lately," said Driskell.

While I-29 was closed, employees estimate about 50 customers came in ever hour, but the day I-29 reopened, only 10 or so come into the store each hour.

"It was rock bottom," explains Driskell.

Weeks after the interstate reopened, Tarkio remains quiet as usual. But if  I-29 closes again, police say they're ready for the chaos that comes with it.

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