MDC agents help rescue motorists stranded in flash flood in NW Missouri

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Mound City, Mo. – Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agents early Wednesday helped rescue eight motorists stranded on or near Interstate 29 by a flash flood following torrential rain in Holt County. The rescues occurred from about midnight to 2:30 a.m. There were no injuries.

The rescues were by boat, motorized front loader and one from the front of a road grader.

Swift water, varied water depths, rain and darkness made the rescues tricky, said Conservation Agent Jade Wright. The National Weather Service reported 5.25 inches of rain fell at Mound City and areas to the north received six inches. Squaw Creek was flooding over the area's roads.

Wright, along with MDC Conservation Agent Anthony Maupin, and Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Quilty, used an MDC boat to reach a school bus driver stranded on Route N north of Mound City. The boat and trailer had to be hooked to a Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) front loader to reach a launching point. Swift current had turned the bus around, killed the engine, and pushed it off the road up against a fence, Wright said. Rescuers were able to get the woman off the bus, into the boat, and back to shore, but not without some tricky maneuvering.

"It took a couple of attempts to get up to her," Wright said. "The water was very fast. We were very lucky."

Afterward, Wright and Maupin helped rescue six people in three vehicles stalled on a flooded I-29. They rode in the bucket of a MoDOT front loader to reach those stranded and then haul them to safety.

Conservation Agent Eric Abbott and a MoDOT road grader operator rescued a man clinging to a luggage rack on top a Jeep Cherokee on the north side of the flash flood. The current had swept the Cherokee into median where the water was deeper and at roof level. A boat appropriate for the swift water was not available so they improvised a rescue, said, Abbott, who is trained for swift-water rescues.

"We were afraid if the water came up six more inches he would be swept away," he said.

The road grader was driven near the vehicle. Abbott moved out to the front of the road grader. He tossed the man a tow rope and instructed him on how to secure it.

"On the count of three, we made a big leap of faith," Abbott said. "He jumped into the water toward the road grader and I pulled with all my might, and we got him pulled out. He was cold and a little bit hypothermic. It was a bad situation."

Also on the scene for all rescues were law enforcement, fire and ambulance personnel.

"It was a team effort," said MDC Northwest Region Protection Supervisor Roger Wolken. "Everybody responded quickly and it put them in a very dangerous situation to rescue citizens, which they did. It's something we train for and hope we don't have to use. But we want to be prepared for it, and we were."