Midwest Residents Left Reeling from Floods

Thousands of people from Arkansas to Ohio are sleeping in shelters or fighting to keep flood waters out of their homes and businesses. Voyann Smith of Dutchtown, Mo., talks to Noah Adam about how the floods are affecting her community.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

Thousands of people from Arkansas to Ohio are sleeping in shelters or fighting to keep floodwaters out of their homes and businesses.

Across the Midwest, more than a dozen people have died in the storms and the flooding. Missouri seems to be one of the states that got hit the hardest.

Voyann Smith is a longtime resident of Dutchtown, Missouri, just about five miles away from the Missouri River itself. Smith runs a bait shop, gas station and convenience store there.

Ms. VOYANN SMITH (Resident, Dutchtown, Missouri): We did have a little bit of warning that it was coming, so we did save quite a bit of our merchandise and stuff, but my equipment and air conditioners, furnaces, all that kind of stuff went under.

ADAMS: What about your house?

Ms. SMITH: Well, now, my house - I live a little bit further away, so I'm on high ground with my home. But my mother - I had - my mother's 84 and I just bought a little piece of property down there and fixed up a little house right across the street from my business, which is actually even lower than my business, and she's now my new roommate. She had five feet of water in her house.

ADAMS: She got five feet of water, bet she lost a lot.

Ms. SMITH: Yeah. We lost just about everything over there.

ADAMS: It sounds like you didn't have quite enough warning about what was going to happen?

Ms. SMITH: Well, this was totally unpredicted. We got 13.5 inches - I'm guessing - something like that in rain and it just swelled the creeks. We've got three bodies of water. We've got the Mississippi River to the east of us, to the south of us it's a diversion channel, headwaters, which takes all the water down to the river, and then right alongside of my store, I've got a little hubble(ph) creek, which takes all the northern little creek watersheds, goes to the big channel, goes to the river. Well, everything was backed up. And then we had levees to break, and then all the floodwater just started backing in, and we were just trapped.

ADAMS: Is this the highest you've seen the water?

Ms. SMITH: In my 30 years, this is the highest I've ever seen it.

ADAMS: Did you think it was ever going to happen this high?

Ms. SMITH: Well, in '93, we held back 48 feet of water, the flood stage where I'm at is 32, and we retained 48 feet of water with a sandbag levee and all that kind of stuff. So I've always known that the potential was there, if the river and the creeks all rise at the same time.

ADAMS: Are you getting - just in terms of your short-term situation there, are you getting enough help? What do you need actually?

Ms. SMITH: Well, I don't know what to do, until FEMA comes into the situation. I don't know if you should go in and try to clean up, I don't know if you should let them come in and see your loss. And the water is supposed to rise four more feet. We're not done yet.

ADAMS: All right. In the meantime, are the roads open? Can somebody get in and somebody…

Ms. SMITH: The roads are open.

ADAMS: And if you got four more feet, what would happen?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SMITH: I'd get a boat. I don't know. We'd be done. I mean, it would take out everything then.

ADAMS: You know, when we first got you on the telephone, I heard a dog bark and asked you about your dog. The dog is going to go with you wherever you go, I bet?

Ms. SMITH: Oh, absolutely. I actually waded in chest-deep and saved two pets yesterday for a little girl. She was balling about her cats. They were scared, so I said, I'll go. I had a pair of chest waders, and I waded in way high deep and went in and saved them cats for that little girl, and she just cried and was so happy.

ADAMS: Voyann Smith talking with us from Dutchtown, Missouri. Good luck to you, Ms. Smith.

Ms. SMITH: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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