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story.lead_photo.caption Residents of houses and bottom floor apartments on Christopher Place on the city's east side, including Earnette Smith shown here, are still cleaning up from flash flooding July 19. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

As Jefferson City residents took shelter from an unusually heavy downpour on the evening of July 19, some watched as water poured into their homes.

Shantel Smith lived with her fiance, Jerry Dooling, her 5-year-old child and 20-year-old niece on Bald Hill Road, which runs near the Moreau River.

On that Sunday, the family came home from a trip then did some things around the house. Later in the day, Dooling went to run some errands. When he came back, he asked Smith if she had been outside.

"I said 'No,' and he said, 'Well I think our house is getting ready to flood,'" Smith said. "I went outside, and it was just water surrounding us and raging floodwaters, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh.'"

Smith went to check if the basement had any water in it, and shortly after she reached the basement, windows started breaking out and the water was rushing in.

"I've lived in that house for 15 years, and we've never had anything happen like that," Smith said. "It took all of seven minutes to fill our house up with water. It was terrifying."

Smith said they ended up with about 8 feet of water in their basement, just a few inches from reaching from the main level of their home. The flooding destroyed the home's air conditioning, plumbing and electricity.

Smith said they ran a pump for 16 hours until the water level reached about a foot. At the bottom, about 4 inches of mud covered the floor.

On top of the loss of their home, Smith's family lost irreplaceable personal items, as well as everything the couple had purchased for their wedding — which was set to take place just two weeks from the day of the flood — that had been stored in the basement.

"I'll never be able to get those baby pictures back of our daughter or my niece," Smith said. "My baby pictures, my brother's baby pictures — we'll never be able to get those back."

Closer to town, residents of Christopher Place — a small cul-de-sac that runs essentially parallel to a branch of Boggs Creek — also experienced unprecedented flooding.

Christie Fain said she has never experienced flooding like what happened July 19.

"I've lived here for 34 years, even lived here in '93 during the flood," Fain said. "We had nothing. We've never had anything like that. It was scary."

In 1993, the Missouri River flooded most of the Jefferson City area with tens of feet of water. The Missouri River was above flood stage for a full 62 days, and much of the city was closed. More than 100 homes were damaged.

Fain said even then, her home didn't flood. But on July 19, her home and the homes of her neighbors on Christopher Place were not so lucky.

"The water came in through where my washing machine drains," she said. "It was shooting up like Old Faithful."

Fain has a collection of photos and videos on her tablet, documenting the torrential downpour and the water rushing through her neighborhood.

Parked cars belonging to her neighbors can be seen submerged in feet of water. Two weeks later, the cars were still gathered in the Christopher Place cul-de-sac, full of mud and debris. There is a clip of Jefferson City Fire Department crews rescuing a family from their car after it became stuck in the flow.

The man and his daughter ended up coming to Fain's home to dry off from the rain, and another neighbor from down the street stayed the night with her after his apartment filled with water.

Water levels in homes on Christoper Place varied from inches to multiple feet, and some were luckier than others when it comes to damage.

While Fain and her family spent days cleaning about 8 inches of water out of their basement and collecting some of their outdoor possessions from debris piles down the road, others suffered complete losses.

Earnette Smith, who lives down the street from Fain on the lower level of a small apartment building, was still removing now-ruined possessions from his apartment a week and a half after the flood with the help of a friend.

Smith said when he saw the heavy rain, he instinctively placed some towels along the bottom of his sliding back door — he knows it tends to leak when there's a lot of rain. When he turned around to grab a few more towels and went back to the door, a steady stream was already leaking in.

Then more water started coming in around his front door. By the time he was able to pry it open, a surge of water knocked him over. The water was up to his waist.

Smith was able to seek safety in the apartment above his, which he happened to have a key to. The neighbor who had lived there had died just earlier in that same week.

On Thursday, July 30 — almost two weeks after the flood — Smith and his friend were still trying to empty the apartment of Smith's ruined belongings. The floors were caked in mud, and the saturated carpet still leaked water with every step.

While Smith lost his home and most of his belongings that day, he said he is grateful for his life and that his two young children weren't there at the time.

Bald Hill Road and Christopher Place were by no means the only affected areas.

Matt Morasch, director of the city's Public Works Department, said the city received reports of flooding primarily in the central and eastern parts of the city, with some lesser issues coming from the west side.

"We're still getting new reports daily from people with questions about their flooding," Morasch said. "This was a very extensive flash flood."

The unprecedented rainfall — several inches in just a couple hours — was more than the city's stormwater system is able to handle even without blockage in the system.

Reports labeled the storm as more intense than a 100-year rain, with some putting it at a 500- or even 1,000-year rain.

A 100-year rain refers to an intense rainstorm with rainfall that has only a 1 percent probability of happening in a year.

Jefferson City's stormwater system is designed to handle a 25-year rain and can be routed for a 100-year rain to make sure structures aren't harmed, even if specific areas overflow over streets, city Operations Division Director Britt Smith previously told the News Tribune.

Flooding issues were exacerbated by debris building up in drainage culverts. On that Sunday, large logs up to 16 inches in diameter collected in some culverts.

Shantel Smith said she believes the city should be held responsible for the damage caused by the flooding because some of the debris was cut-down trees that were on city property.

"That's not our normal operation, to go trim trees," Morasch said. "Any natural drainage course will have dead trees and woody debris continually coming into the creeks."

Morasch said it is not uncommon for large debris to collect in the culverts during flooding events.

"We can't guarantee that culverts will always stay open," he said. "Our culverts aren't designed typically to handle this type of flow."

Morasch said if residents want to know more about possible flooding on their property, they can call the Public Works Department at 573-634-6410.

On July 19, the floodwater receded almost as quick as it came. But for those affected, recovery will last much longer.

"It's a significant amount of damage that we can't afford to fix," Shantel Smith said. "I've never gone through something like this before. It's devastating, it really is."

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