Conservation Agents employ MDC boats for flood rescues

News from the region
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Poplar Bluff, Mo. – Seventeen Missouri Conservation agents worked alongside emergency personnel to assist in flood evacuations and rescue work Tuesday in Butler, Bollinger, Mississippi, Stoddard, Wayne and Ripley counties. The use of Missouri Conservation Department (MDC) boats has been one of the greatest assets the MDC could offer throughout the flood relief efforts according to Conservation Agent Eric Heuring.

One of Tuesday’s rescues involved Direct TV employee Jason Wahl of East Cape Girardeau, IL, who was pulled from the top of his quickly flooding vehicle Tuesday afternoon by Conservation Agent Mic Plunkett. When Plunkett’s boat pulled up to the submerged white minivan, debris was floating throughout the interior of the van.

“The customer said I would be able to come down this road,” Wahl said when he reached dry land, “but you really couldn’t tell how deep the water was.”

Plunkett said there are a number of conditions to consider when driving in wet weather but really, it’s best just not to attempt to cross a flooded road at all.

“If water comes up the sides of the vehicle at all the engine could cut off and also wet brakes don’t work well,” Plunkett said. “We encourage people to take precautionary measures and just not cross the road closed signs.”

Thirteen people, three dogs and a parakeet were rescued by Heuring and Butler County Fire Department personnel Monday evening between the hours of 3 and 10 p.m. Heuring was one of five Missouri Conservation Agents working to rescue people from dangerously flooded areas throughout Butler County on Monday night.

Heuring said driving a boat through a city environment is much different than taking a boat out on a lake or river.

“It was somewhat scary knowing that many of these houses with water coming in over their windows still had working electricity,” he said. “But thankfully we kept a watchful eye and avoided the dangers.”

Heuring encourages people to attempt to get out of a flooded area before the dangers escalate, adding that in many cases the water rises too fast for people to evacuate in their own vehicles.

“Most people realized once it began to get dark that they needed to get out,” he said. “It was right around sundown that the phone really began to ring.”

Missouri conservation agents continue to work alongside other agencies in rescue and evacuation efforts.