Thursday, March 20, 2008

The 100-Year Flood

Well, an eventful week in the 'Zarks. We traveled to Leasburg, MO for the National School for Paddlesports Business. I taught three courses; Advanced Marketing, Intro to Customer Relations, and Effective Retail Design and Merchandising. One of these I taught because the assigned instructor couldn't come due to problems with travel. More on that later.

Monday morning we enjoyed a tour of Onondaga Cave. I thought this was going to be a typical local cave with a few interesting stalactites. Frankly, it is one of the most beautiful caves I have ever seen. There were large numbers of speleothems called soda straws, a fairly rare cave formation that I have never seen in such a number.

After the cave tour we went for a nice paddle on the Courtois, Huzzah and Meramec Rivers, with beautiful bluffs and abundant bird life (pileated woodpeckers, tufted titmice, cardinals, goldfinches, hairy woodpeckers and a few other various and sundry species). Ian impressed the group by paddling solo, and despite a little rain, it seemed like it was going to be a lovely week.

Then the rain started, and did not stop. Over 10 inches of rain in 24 hours, and it seemed to be concentrated in a very small watershed. The result was a 100-year flood. According to locals the last time the river crested 26 feet above flood stage was 1918.

The result was that a good deal of the resort was under 5-8 feet of water. We were fortunate to be in a cabin that was on high ground, maybe 200 yards from the river bank, but the water was 20-30 yards from the cabin at the peak of the flood.

The building in the picture is the grill, or the dining area. It was completed about two weeks ago, a brand-new facility, which made it even more sad. To show the change that 12 hours can make, here are two pictures: One of the pizza party we had on Tuesday night, and one of me paddling in the same building to retrieve any food that we might scavenge from the highest shelves. We filled two canoes and did pretty well, so much so that Wednesday evening dinner was actually pretty good.

Darren paddling indoors

Ian's "Eye of Sauron" Pizza

As you can see, things changed from Tuesday night to Wednesday noon. Bear Bass from Ozark Outdoors was a gem from start to finish. He and his staff kept us updated on the weather as we scrambled to rearrange classes and locations as floodwaters kept us moving to ever higher ground.

In the end, the best part of the entire episode of being stranded on an island with a bunch of paddlers was the camaraderie of 50 or 60 people who all dropped everything to help each other and to help Ozark Outdoors. We all scrambled to move merchandise, clean, cook, and console each other as the waters rose ever higher. We were, in truth, in no danger at any point, but several folks were stranded away from family a few days longer than they would have preferred.

Today it was announced that the flood had receded enough for us to take a sneak out the back way, down a 12-mile logging road and back to Hwy 44. Even in evacuation, we stayed together and convoyed out of the hills, passing trickles that were just a few hours earlier raging torrents.

Not the way I wanted to spend Spring Break, but it certainly was an experience I won't soon forget.


Bruce said...

WOW! When I heard about the floods I immediately thought about Ozark Outdoors. I visit Bear once a year because they are such wonderful people. It sounds like even in troubled times they still rise above! Glad everyone is alright. I hope Bear recovers that wonderful campground and canoe rental soon!

Anonymous said...

"Paddle Thru Dining" just might catch on!

Ryan A.
Ryan Arnold
Arnold Creative