Flood of 2019 makes its mark on history

Here in the Midwest, folks who live and work along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers often measure their milestones by floods. Until now, the 1993 disaster seems to be most memorable for Show-Me State residents in recent history. It looks like 2019 also will become one of those landmark years.

Much of MFA territory is suffering from the floods of 2019. It’s even the cover story for this issue of Today’s Farmer. Rivers have sprawled into bottom land, again and again, since early spring. The water was annoy­ingly persistent, sticking around for much longer than normal high-wa­ter events. In fact, it’s been the most prolonged, widespread flood fight in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As a result, homes, farms and businesses are damaged. The growing season is ruined for many producers. Life has been disrupt­ed for thousands of people in the water’s way.

I won’t recap all the details here. You’ve likely been inundated by countless other stories about the flood and its aftermath. You’ll see it again beginning on page 24. But we couldn’t let this issue go to press without covering the historic event ourselves. So many of our customers, employees and facilities have been impacted. It’s a story that hits close to home for all of us here at MFA.

As rain was falling, banks were overflowing and levees were breaking, our reporters crisscrossed the state, from the Missouri to the Mississippi, capturing images and information. This wasn’t an easy subject to address because the situation is so dynamic. How do you talk about repercussions or what happens next? Some places are just one big rainfall away from being flooded again.

Admittedly, I’m guilty of com­plaining about the two-month-long road closure on Highway 94 that forced me to take an alternate route to MFA’s home office in Colum­bia and an out-of-the-way detour to get to Jefferson City. Our son’s regular-season baseball games were cut short because the team’s sports complex was immersed in floodwa­ters to the top of the outfield fence until early July.

But that’s shallow thinking. Such inconveniences are nothing com­pared to what many families and farmers are dealing with. Some are still boating over fallow fields that should have been filled with matur­ing corn and soybeans. Some are facing two years without a crop be­cause they can’t risk farming outside a broken levee. Some lost last year’s crop stored in grains bins damaged by floodwater.

These folks are still a long way from returning to their normal lives. Fields have to be fixed. Debris and trash have to be removed. Farmers are finding everything from propane tanks and tires to picnic tables and lumber left behind. For several weeks, a large shipping container from who-knows-where remained “docked” haphazardly on the side of the highway along my drive in the Callaway County river bottoms— beached there when the waters be­gan to recede from the farmer’s field.

When MFA’s Matt Stock showed me and Photojournalist Kerri Lotven the extensive flood damage on his family farm in Levasy, he also drove through parts of the small town that were deluged as well. Many of the houses were condemned by the Fed­eral Emergency Management Agency, and the owners will never return. The town will be changed forever. And it’s not the only one. Missouri has the highest number of FEMA buyout properties of any state.

For all the distress left in the wake of the flood, we are once again re­minded of the good that comes out of a bad situation. From sandbag­ging barriers to evacuating facilities to offering higher ground to move equipment and animals, there are plenty of examples of how neighbors helped neighbors, customers helped MFA and MFA helped customers and communities through the crisis.

And the need is not over as the road to recovery continues. If there’s something you can do to help out a fellow flood victim, volunteer your time. If you need some help yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and neighbors or your local MFA— even if you just need a sympathetic ear. Our experts can assist with re­habilitating fields, checking fertility levels, making plans for future crops or any other needs to help get your farm back on track. We’re all in this together.

It’s too early to know the extent of the damage or how long-lasting the effects will be. The future is still to be determined for many folks. But one thing’s for sure. None of us who experienced this flood will ever for­get it. And we’ll mark 2019 on our list of Missouri disaster milestones.

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