Close your eyes as you listen to this remarkable recap of the scary Missouri River Flood, as told by Katie Pemberton.
Imagine that you are sitting in your home. It’s a dark night and you can hear the rushing sound of the waters and inching closer towards your house. Terrifying.
All water has perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.Toni Morrison
Today, my guest Katie Pemberton is going to tell us exactly how that felt to be sitting in her home in the dark, listening and just waiting to see if the water would take her home.
In this post, we talk about:
– A remarkable recap of the scary Missouri River Flood happening right outside Katie’s door.
– How her small community of Northwest Missouri was affected by the flooding.
– The ins & outs of recuperating and rebuilding afterwards.
I know you’re ready for this, so let’s dive in.
Listen to the Rural Women Inspired Podcast:
Who is Katie Pemberton?
Katie lives on the Missouri side of the Mighty Mo river from me. And so we’ve seen the river – the way that prowls in its banks just waiting to get out. Actually her address is Craig Missouri.
She’s a mom to a little boy and is a county Extension Agent (just like I used to be! :))
Katie is also a fellow blogger – Her blog’s name is The Waterfowl Wife. We actually met in a blogging group and it’s just fun to find someone with kind of the same interests as well as neighbors right across the river.
Her husband is also an Entrepreneur. He owns a guide service for hunting. Being a wife of a Hunter is kind of a whole different thing too. He rents out a lodge for the year so the hunters can stay the night if they come from far away. What’ll be interesting is it’s over in the floodwater right now, so hopefully it starts to go down here soon. So that’s been complicated.
March 2019 Flood
That took us right into the flood of March 2019, which is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to interview Katie.
The same area flooded in 2011 or 2012. Her house is actually in a flood plain, but they have so many levies that it shouldn’t normally be the problem that it was this year. That fact is the same for many people in the same community who were surprised when there property flooded.
We talked about some of those reactions next.
Reactions of people in the community after the flooding
Katie says the water came fast and furious. They only had (at the most) a week but in some parts, the water came before the week was up.
What hurt them the most was the levies around them kept breaking. So if it would have just stayed in, it would’ve been okay. But they would burst and no one had a whole lot of time after that would happen.
Katie can remember the night it really hit. They knew it was coming but didn’t know how bad. In fact, one of her friends went to bed and there was no water and they woke up and there was an Island, so it happened really fast. That’s been hard to see all those people go through that as well.
How have the dynamics of her community changed?
The community of Mound City/Craig, Missouri is definitely rural and tight-nit. But Katie says that due to the flooding, there there a lot of people that have had to move somewhere else. The amount of water that came out of the broken levies made a roughly 28 acre hole because the water was so strong. That’s just massively deep.
So when that levy broke and headed toward Craig, people came from all over trying to help sandbag and build levies around, but it just wasn’t enough. The flood also hit the school in that town and it already was a small school to begin with. Then a lot of people just kind of up and left.
The problem is because Craig usually wouldn’t get hit a lot of people didn’t have flood insurance. Therefore, their house was ruined and there was no way to come back from that. So any money that they received from like FEMA and that kind of stuff, they just took it and got a new house somewhere else. Because of that, there’s a lot of abandoned houses now.
Then it’s also affected the school. When families start leaving and there’s less and less kids in the school, it becomes an issue of whether to keep the school open or not. When you lose a school, it can then affect the entire community. So it’s made a huge impact there.
Finally, it also has impacted the travel and commuting out of the area because of the flooding up in Nebraska. They had to close the main interstate at a certain point. And so a lot of the local stores and businesses have really struggled because they usually get their business from people on the interstate. Many businesses struggled for those few months that the interstate was closed as well. It’s amazing how water can make that much difference.
The Damage Water Can Do
It really is amazing how much damage water can make. It’s more than just mold in houses and buildings. It’s made massive holes. It’s eaten away highways. They have bridges that are just hanging on. They’re pretty much broken. So a lot of infrastructure that needs now fixed, not only just houses.
Not only physically, but there was a lot of emotions as well in the midst and the aftermath.
For Katie and her family, the water ended up encircling around their home. It got close to where there was one lane open on the road, but they were still good.
But she recounts a remarkable recall of the night that it started to get questionable for their house. They started moving things to upper levels and she could see and hear the water just in the distance. Just that fear of it’s coming and they might completely lose everything. Katie said that was a very overwhelming feeling.
I asked Katie: “What would have happened if you would’ve gotten all the way up to the top of your house with no where else to go? Where you and your family were like, where do we go from here and where would you have gone?” She says her house is actually lifted enough that they felt at the most the lower part of their house would have gotten some water but that’s it.
She said that if the water would have gotten up to the main level, it probably would’ve been pretty bad where they would have lost most things. They decided that they would stay put in their house for as long as the road was not still not covered. It got real questionable where one lane started going, but at that point the river had just hit its peak and was going down. They knew the water moves fast but slow enough that if it covered the road, they could drive fast enough that it was only an inch and they can make it out in time.
Katie’s family did come out and stay at one of the local motels in town. So they had a room in case and their son was able to go there so they didn’t have to worry about him. It was just Katie and her husband in the house. It was a scary night of not knowing.
But, she now feels very fortunate because people have lost their entire homes. One of our friends lost their house completely – It even moved it off the foundation and everything and they had young kids and lost everything, their cribs, toys, all of that. So, she definitely has been there through the heartbreak for them. They’ve had to completely rebuild and it’s been really hard. But it’s also been really great to see how the community just circled around everyone helped so much for those that needed it.
Thanks to Those Who Provided Help
Red Cross got up here pretty quick, but there were boats from everywhere trying to help take people in to see their houses or get sandbags in the levies. But just seeing people coming from all places just to try and give any help that they could. For example, people & businesses brought up trucks with washing machines on them and that kind of stuff. That really made a huge difference to help in such a small area.
Also, Katie has been involved with cleanup on the education side because of her Extension job. One of the ways is through MARC meetings, where there are different helpful organizations and entities in all of the different communities where red cross was there. People can come in and sign up for getting assistance as well as grab some good information and safety tips, such as:
* How to clean out your septic tank afterwards because if debris have gotten in it, you want to pump it out.
* How to pump out water from your basement because if you completely pump it all out too fast, the walls can cave in from the pressure and
* How to deal with the mold in your home or buildings afterwards.
They also offered things for the kids such as book bags and toys because they may have lost everything, but at least now they have something to look forward to and feel a little bit more normal.
For Katie, just helping in the community on more of a personal level is very fulfilling to her. Her husband works for quite a large farmer in the area and they have a levy around their house to protect everything. They went back and they had boats going in to put sandbags up on their levy to get it bigger.
Katie recalls a good 25 plus boats and 60 people all focused on trying to get in through the water just to save this one farmer’s house. Katie did her part by trying to take food and help them get a break a little bit. To her, just seeing that help just from people all over coming in – To take that in felt really awesome.
This is not the end…
Katie doesn’t think that her son will remember this particular flood, but there is talk that because the levies are all broken and the Army Corp of Engineers can’t get into fix them – There is more flooding to come. There will likely be more floods in the area again next year.
This was such a destructive flood and all of the levies broke. There’s no protection from the water now. So, the flood may even be longer just because the Army Corp did start to fix the levies a couple of months ago but then it started to rain and the same area flooded again and wiped it all back out. So, it’s just going to be a battle for probably a couple of years.
There’s still lots of cleaning up to do from this flood, too. They’ve got most sites and fields cleaned up now, but there are still random boats out in cornfields or irrigation tanks and things like that just out there.
And then also the other problems been the dead fish. As the water recedes, then all of those are left in the field. The smell of those fish is nasty and trying to get it all cleaned up is a chore.
Is there still a need for help?
Yes – This isn’t over. The water rises again every once in a while. It was up high for another month here in September to where some of the farmers were still going in on tractors – it was the only way in and out going through the water. But I think it’s down now to where they can start to take vehicles through.
Most people that pretty much are still out here have levies around their houses. But, the flood really devastated the town of Craig. People who did stick around are just kind of making ends meet essentially. They still have some organizations coming in providing food and things like that. It’s not near what it was before. Katie thinks more of the help will be needed again probably next spring when it starts right back up since all the levies will likely still be broken.
How has the Flood in the Spring Affected Farming?
This big flood happened in March right before farmers in the area were ready to go into the field. Were they able to clean their fields up and get back in the field? What does harvest look like for this season?
Katie says most of the farmers who had land down in the bottoms where it did flood didn’t get any corn or soybeans planted. Luckily, many farmers will have half their ground in the bottom while half is up in like a Hill ground. The hill ground that was higher didn’t flood so they were able to plant and eventually harvest. So, for the farmer Katie’s husband works for, the total amount of acres planted was half of what they normally have.
But then a lot of smaller farmers are getting out of farming completely because they can’t make it essentially because they don’t have any crop. There’s no way to pay anything in.
There is some crop insurance it still put a pretty big hit on them that it’s hard to come back from. Then there was some issues with grain bins completely collapsing that held last years crop still. They then lost all of that completely just to the river essentially. That was just money completely lost.
How the Flood Experience has Changed Katie
Katie says she feels a lot more thankful what she and her family do have. Seeing people that literally had the clothes on their back and that’s it really has humbled her. She keeps thinking about how they were in the middle of it all, but made it out where only their basement flooded.
She feels so grateful that they were okay, but then that they could help others.
How Katie Finds Fulfillment in Life
Katie says she has had problems with depression before, especially after she had her son and even more so after the flooding. She says she felt like she kind of got a smack to the face of everything is not so bad and took the time to actually take care of herself.
Katie’s main outlet is her blog: The Waterfowl Wife. She has really found that through writing her blog that she can enjoy the writing side and also feels like she can help people and reach out to people that way. She wanted to be able to spend more time with her son too, so that was her big start for the blog – She wanted to be able to have more of a flexible lifestyle.
What Katie is looking forward to
Katie’s blog The Waterfowl Wife is mostly about being married to a farmer and all that goes into it but she’s also wanting to revamp it a little bit to add in the hunting side. She says there’s really not a whole lot out there for women who are with hunters. There’s women who do hunt and then you know, a lot of people that hunt are also farmers. So there’s kind of those two sides. Both hunters and farmers can be gone for long periods unless you can go with them, but that can be hard with little ones.
So, that lifestyle of trying to make life work and then being alone can be difficult. Katie’s blog goes into how to make that life work a little bit easier while providing support and community. She wants to help women in these roles feel like they aren’t alone but also fix some common issues, such as options for field meals or how to still spend time with your husband during harvest, etc.
Katie is looking forward to growing her community and seeing where this can take her as a blogger.
One Book Katie Recommends
Katie read Chip and Joanna Gaines first book The Magnolia Story when she was on maternity leave with her son. One thing about Katie is that she is very conservative and follow the rules and thought she wanted to be in the same job the rest of her life. This book was her turning point of realizing that it’s okay to dream.
In the book, Joanna talks about how she was pushed by chip to just start her shop and he said, “Well, why not? Why not start it?”
Katie had never had that way of thinking before. It was very eye opening to her. To hear their story and how they had rough patches, but they’ve made it through and things have worked out for them. It’s okay to dream and to just do it and not to sit back and say, “Well it might fail so I’m not going to do it.” This was Katie’s turning point of seeing a different lifestyle completely changed her personality as well. So I really recommend that book.
Sidenote: I love that because what if Joanna would’ve never gone through with it? What if she would’ve not listened to Chip and not ever opened her shop? She would not be where they are now for sure.
And that’s why it’s so important to take those chances because if you have a dream pulling you in this direction and it just keeps coming at you and you keep saying no, eventually you’re going to have to say yes because it just keeps pulling you in that direction and you just keep coming back to it. That’s a sign that you should do something is when that keeps happening.
God pushes you into the path you’re supposed to be.
Katie’s Favorite Daily Tool
Katie says she’s definitely a list person. She has 5 million to do lists on her phone and calendar. She says it’s easy for her to over-schedule things and not give tasks enough time. Lately, she’s been really making that point in her calendar to lay things out. Even driving times.
When she’s at a meeting or thinking of things, she can quickly write on a to do list and check it later so that she doesn’t have to remember everything. She says she I do not have a good memory. So, to-do lists really help her to get things done.
Best Piece of Advice
Katie’s son was born during harvest and she can remember one of the days that her husband was leaving for a day in the combine. She remembers telling him that she would all this stuff done, like bringing food.
He turned to her and said: “Well, don’t forget to relax.” Some pieces of advice really do sound too good to be true. That has really stuck with Katie in the fact that with any passion, you can just want to do it all the time and not taking that moment to take care of yourself.
Since this flood has happened, she has really taken that step back. She went through depression, but was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia. So she gets pain randomly – It’s made her take that second to sit back and tell herself that it’s okay to take care of her and maybe just sit and do nothing for a little while. Just enjoy the time with her son and those things will still be there tomorrow.
Definitely. Definitely add white space into your calendar. That time where you do kind of take a breath. That’s kind of your cue to just sit down and put your feet up for a minute. Everyone needs that.
Where you can Find Katie & Wrap Up
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to the rural woman inspired podcast and my interview with Katie! I hope that you found it to be fulfilling for you.
Here’s where you can get a hold of Katie:
* Blog: The Waterfowl Wife
* Facebook: The Waterfowl Wife
* Instagram: The Waterfowl Wife
If you never want to miss a single episode ever again, you can also subscribe and listen for free at:
* Apple Podcasts
Hone your dreams, own your life, and I’ll see you down the road.