The crippling sound of thunder echoes for miles. A once visible speed limit sign wavers, unstable. The foundation of a family’s world cracks with mother nature’s tantrum and they can do nothing but wade through. The road home, engulfed, unseen.
A man sifts through timeless memories as he wipes off a once dusty photograph that is now all but clean. The parchment rips and his heart sinks, slipping through the cracks.
He stands amid the aftermath as adjacent and misplaced as the water that surrounds him. Broken from the stream and searching for a new course, James McCallan and his family must start over – again.
“I never imagined the water would come in and take everything away like that,” McCallan said. “We lost so much.”
After floods in late March caused by excessive rainfall and breached levees, people from Holt County and other areas in northwest Missouri had to evacuate and temporarily, if not permanently, relocate. Some have decided to move to Maryville for good, while others are still looking for places to go.
The city of Maryville and Mozingo became a place of refuge for some, as people affected by the flood brought their RVs and what belongings they could salvage from their homes.
Guest Services Coordinator of Mozingo Brandon Cartwright interacted with those arriving from flooded areas, hearing their experiences first-hand. He anticipated that more were to come and, recognizing this, asked the city council what, if anything, they could do to help those on the road of recovery.
Within 45 minutes after Cartwright approached Maryville staff, City Manager Greg McDanel and Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland proposed to allow those affected by floods to stay for free during their recovery process.
Maryville mayor Rachael Martin immediately agreed to the proposal.
“This staff’s hard work shows all the time, but this instance really speaks to how we can make a difference,” Martin said.
Heiland said about 10 campers arrived to Mozingo with families and individuals displaced from the March 20 flooding. After staying at no cost for two to three weeks, they found a way to move forward.
“We are certainly grateful to give people going through a rough time an opportunity to get back on their feet,” Heiland said. “I think it helped people gather their thoughts during a hard time and look at how they can move on without having to worry about financial aspects of their stay.”
James McCallan and his family, who first arrived at Mozingo the week of March 20, was one of the first to arrive at Mozingo, speaking with Cartwright about their situation and troubling experience.
The flood came quicker than they expected, giving them only three hours to get what they could from their home and take refuge elsewhere.
“There was three feet of water in our home at the end of it,” McCallan said. “My wife and I have been married 17 years, and there’s been some hardships along the way, but nothing like this.”
The McCallan family loaded a U-Haul truck with what they salvaged and came to Maryville for supplies. They decided to go back to Craig to get their RV before the roads were too flooded to navigate.
“We thought it was the best thing to do,” McCallan said. “We were out of ideas and just needed to figure out what the next step was.”
According to McCallan, approximately 20 families permanently relocated from Craig, leaving behind a town most of them grew up in and loved.
“Now that we’re somewhat back on our feet, we’ve been helping people over there when we can,” McCallan said. “It’s so hard, and we want to be there for people like Maryville was for us, paying it forward.”
Parts of Craig were underwater for a week after the levee broke in March, forcing its school to close, businesses to slow and people to leave the small town with little to nothing. Some are more hopeful of recovery than others.
Diana Jones, a resident of Craig, said the flood devastated the community.
“Coming back and seeing it the way it is — it just tears your heart out,” Jones said in an interview with Fox 4. “We have to start over now.”
Jones has lived in Craig most of her life and was affected by another flood that hit the area in 1993. She moved to the other side of town, thinking it would be safer.
“I know there’s not a lot of people coming back,” Jones said. “We have to be strong as a community.”
The midwest as a whole took a hard hit from massive flooding in March. According to The Weather Channel, the state of Nebraska alone suffered $1.3 billion in damage. Missouri faces millions in damage with most being destroyed roads and infrastructure.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said 200 miles of levees were breached and 42 locations in six states recorded historic flood levels.
Evacuations were ordered in places like Craig, where the town of 240 people was fully inundated within a few hours.
Flood victims that took refuge in Maryville and at Mozingo thanked Cartwright and the council for their efforts to help a struggling community.
“Before Brandon (Cartwright) knew the city would allow us to stay for free, he offered to pay our way out of his own pocket for a few days,” McCallan said. “I couldn't believe it.”
Cartwright said he was grateful for the council’s thoughtful proposal.
“The hard work and thanks towards this is on the city staff; I wanted to bring it to their attention,” Cartwright said.
McCallan said the Maryville community provided his family with what they needed to move forward.
“We are very grateful,” McCallan said. “Everybody was helping each other out in ways a great community does. It was tough, but the only thing you can do from here is move forward.”
After living through three different flood evacuations, the McCallan family said they decided to move to Maryville and are excited to be a part of its friendly and compassionate community.