With river about to crest, Chillicothe residents trying to stay ‘ahead of the rising tide’

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CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Some rural Missouri towns feel as if rain has been falling since the snow stopped. That includes the small city of Chillicothe.

The risk of flooding is growing in the area, the county seat of Livingston County, which sits about two hours northeast of Kansas City.

The city is becoming, as one Chillicothe resident called it, more like an island.

Five roads lead in and our of town. Four of them have been closed due to rising water. In some spots along the Grand River, the water has burst past the riverbanks and out onto roads and closer to businesses and farmland.

The Grand River is well above flood stage, which is 24 feet. It’s expected to crest Thursday evening around 39 feet, which is close to a record.

Roads like Highway 36 are virtually invisible.

“This is pretty extraordinary. It might go over the road on 36 every once in a while,” Cori Siemer said.

She and her family operate a local barbershop, which sits about a mile from the road closure.

Just past the signs, railroad workers are trying to save the tracks from the river. Chillicothe is a farm-based area, and much of the land is now unusable for the foreseeable future.

Normally, Siemer sees 15-20 customers a day. But her scissors are silent right now since customers can’t get to her as easily — and that hurts.

“I have a kid going to college. I’m paying for that,” Siemer said. “When you don’t work, and you don’t have the business coming in, this is how we pay our bills. I don’t have anything to fall back on.”

The city’s administrator, Darrin Chappel, just opened an emergency management center.

“We’re trying to stay just ahead of the rising tide, literally,” he said. “Once that river crests, we’ll see where we are and what needs to be accomplished, what kind of cleanup needs to happen.”

Chappel is already in contact with FEMA, getting a jump on potential recovery efforts. The city has also opened a shelter for anyone who might need a safe place to stay. So far, Chappell said his office doesn’t know of any homes in danger.

But as water continues to rush south along Missouri’s rivers, anything is possible.

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