St. Joseph residents return after floodwaters pass

Data pix.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Roughly 7,000 people who evacuated parts of St. Joseph on Friday came back on Saturday. The Missouri River crested at 32.2 feet, prompting those evacuations. Now, that water has moved downriver.

Most of the evacuations occurred in the southern parts of St. Joseph, near the Lake Contrary community.

That’s where Paul Hinton lives, as of two weeks ago.

“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy that we can finally call this home,” Hinton said.

But it wasn’t without an emotional 48 hours.

“I’m going to lose a place,” he remembers thinking, “that I just bought that I haven’t had a chance to make any memories in.”

Days after Hinton started moving into his new home with his family, he was re-packing to move back out.

“We got everything out that we need to get out,” he said.

Hinton joined roughly 7,000 others in evacuating Friday morning. But Friday afternoon, the Missouri River showed its might, cresting at a historic 32.2 feet (breaking the 1993 record of 32.1 feet). By Saturday, the river was back below 30 feet, and the Hinton family was back in their new home.

Watching his children jump on a trampoline and ride their bikes, Hinton said, “it was great, it was awesome, so now we can come and live in our home. Yeah, it was a real relief for us.”

A few miles away, on the northern edge of St. Joseph, the Casino sits silent, and surrounded by water. Nearby, the nature center stood on the stilts that ensured it could handle a 500 year flood. The water was a few feet below its floor.

“When you’re talking water levels, inches, tenths of inches, hundredths of inches is really significant," Mary Robertson said, a spokeswoman with St. Joseph.

It could be days before the river drops enough to assess the damage, and let the people in the northern stretch back into their homes.

This is a very early start to the spring flood season. Which is why the City of St. Joseph is warning everyone.

“We are not it of the woods,” Robertson said. “I would not be surprised if we don’t see high water levels again yet this year.”

In terms of numbers:
- 7,000 people evacuated St. Joseph yesterday.
- More than 150,000 sand bags were packed by 800 volunteers for three levees.
- The levees were packed with those sand pages to a height of 34 feet.
- The previous river crest record, set in 1993, was 32.1 feet.
- Had the city been flooded, Robertson estimates the damage would’ve been in the millions of dollars.

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