Below is a summary of articles on the Taum Sauk dam disaster in the past week.
Jerry Toop, superintendent of Taum Sauk/Johnson Shut Ins and his young children are much in my prayers after they were swept away in the 20 foot wall of water that destroyed their house in 30 degree temps.
I have had numerous conversations with Jerry over the years as we discussed the possibility of locating the Jakk Longacre Highpointers Museum on the road approaching the Taum Sauk summit. I can’t imagine a better superindent.
As a native of Missouri, I first got the highpointing bug in 1969 when I visited the Taum Sauk reservoir with my parents and brother. Over the years I have camped up and down the Black River and its surrounding hills. It’s hard to imagine what has become of the most beautiful spot in all of Missouri.
Here’s the articles.
In article headlined, Taum Sauk fund-raisers set
Two accounts have been established and one fund-raiser will take place next week to benefit Johnson’s Shut-Ins Superintendent Jerry Toop’s family. Toop, his wife, and their three children were swept out of their beds Wednesday morning when the Taum Sauk dam failed and water from the reservoir slammed into their home and destroyed the building.
The three children were taken to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, where they were listed in critical condition on Wednesday. On Friday, however, a spokesman for the hospital said that only Tanner, 5, remained in critical condition in the pediatric care unit. Tara, 3, and Tucker, 7 months had been upgraded to fair condition and were moved out of the intensive care unit.
A fund has been established at the First State Community Bank of Ironton. Donations may be sent to the
Jerry and Lisa Toops Benefit Fund
First State Bank of Ironton
P.O. Box 168,
Ironton, Mo. 63650
Also, a fund to help victims of the flood and rebuilding efforts in Reynolds County has been established at Sun Security Bank. A spokesman for the bank said a special post office box has been opened to take donations. Make checks to:
Benefit for the Victims of the Taum Sauk
P.O. Box 231
Those who suffered damage as a result of the flooding are asked to contact a claims center that AmerenUE set up in Room 52 of the Shepherd Mountain Inn, 1321 N. Highway 21, Ironton. Claimants also may call 1-800-552-7583 ext. 44740 to report damages. Claims personnel from AmerenUE also will visit homes and families who were affected by the incident.
Assessment Begins on Damage to Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park 2005-12-17
Preliminary reports indicate the majority of the damage was in the area adjacent to the East Fork of the Black River, which flows through the park. Extensive damage was reported to the superintendent’s residence, the campground, the park’s water plant and the boardwalk to the shut-ins, the park’s signature natural feature. The park store and office were flooded but are still standing.
An AmerenUE spokesman said the company was under the understanding that the Taum Sauk upper dam was made of rock and concrete. But neither material was evident Thursday when investigators examined the 600-foot wide, 100-foot deep breach in the dam that released more than a billion gallons of water into the Black River valley.
Instead, there appeared to be only soil and small rock. Other areas along the top of the dam had suffered minor damage, but those areas held, according to Mike Cleary, communications executive for AmerenUE.
The rock wall dam held an inner polyethylene liner and the floor of the dam was asphalt. The company installed a liner in order to reduce water leaks that resulted when water from the reservoir made its way through several cracks in the rock. The company replaced the original liner one year ago, Cleary said.
However, if any part of the dam was earthen, overtopping the reservoir would explain how a breach could occur, he added. The lack of rock and concrete evidence near the breach could mean that the section was, indeed, constructed of earth instead of rock, he theorized.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If it was earthen, we don’t design them to handle overtopping,Ã¢â‚¬Â Morris said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We assume from an engineering perspective, that it will fail if overtopping occurs. That could happen immediately or take some time, depending on the surface.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Blunt orders review of dam safety rules 2005-12-16
His order also followed a report in Friday’s Post-Dispatch that many dams in Missouri and Illinois need repair, lack emergency plans and are regulated by state offices that are stretched thin. More than half of Missouri’s 641 dams that could prove most destructive if they fail are not regulated by the government.
Members of the Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, which is the department’s investigative unit, were at the Taum Sauk plant on Friday. They are investigating to determine whether the failure of the dam and the computer-operated equipment was an accident or intentional, said Lt. Tim Hull, spokesman for the Highway Patrol.
The investigation into the cause of the equipment failure and the resulting 600-foot wide and 100-foot deep breach in the dam wall could take months.
Given the significant investment in the facility, the company most likely would want to rebuild the dam. However, until the reason for the dam failure is identified, the company will not know whether it would be cost effective to make repairs, spokesman Mike Cleary said.
AmerenUE does not expect the loss of the dam to affect electricity rates. The plant is one of many factors that keep prices down, Cleary explained.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This helped our system operate more efficiently,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cleary said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But it produced less than 2 or 3 percent of our electricity, so there should be no significant impact on rates or production.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The department does not have regulatory oversight of the reservoir, but is involved in overseeing recovery efforts after the Dec. 14 breach, which released 1.5 billion gallons of water into the surrounding area, near Lesterville, Mo. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the plant.
AmerenUE has contracted with MacTec, an engineering, environmental and remedial construction firm, to address short-term issues at the site, including stabilizing sediment and addressing debris that has dammed the Black River and changed its flow. MacTec will also present its findings to state and federal authorities.
In the same space of time, ironically, national news was made with the announcement that the New Orleans levees were going to be rebuilt “bigger and better”, now to a height of 17 feet in some places. And the talk of the “ability to withstand a Category 5 storm” is again in the news.
What wasn’t learned from Katrina should now be impressed upon us by Lesterville. Water is HEAVY. If water rises up the sides of a levee wallÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ one must consider the size of the impoundment! If a few extra feet of depth in a mere 55 acre reservoir in Lesterville, Missouri has enough added weight to collapse a 600 foot wide section of the retaining wallÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ how much additional pressure would raising the massive Lake Pontchartrain by a foot or 2 exert on these levees?
David Tetrault, director of the St. Francois County Ambulance, said when they arrived on scene to provide assistance, the emergency services were already being stretched handling the five injured people.
“If this had happened during the summer when that campground was full, there is no doubt in my mind there would have been a thousand people hurt or killed,” Tetrault said.
“Their emergency services would have been quickly overwhelmed, any county’s would. That is why we have to have strong mutual aid agreements in place. In a major casualty incident, you’re going to need the help of surrounding counties.”
Holst said 19 campground reservations for 44 nights in the park had been canceled, and those who booked to stay at the park will receive full refunds. The park will not accept new reservations until it becomes clear when it can reopen.
Toops and his family were scheduled to move soon because he has been promoted to assistant Ozarks district supervisor in Lebanon, Mo. It was not clear when the superintendent’s house would be rebuilt.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins got its name thanks to the mix of geology and water in the area.
About 1.5 billion years ago, hot volcanic ash and gases spewed into the air, then cooled, forming a type of rock produced under conditions of intense heat, called igneous rock.
Over time, water from the Black River became confined, or “shut-in” to narrow channels, leading sand and gravel carried by the waters to cut into the erosion-resistant rock and resulting in dramatic chutes and gorges.
Much of the park was donated to Missouri in 1955
“Yesterday’s flood was a true test of our emergency response capabilities. Everyone involved deserves our gratitude. Their immediate and coordinated reaction to protect Missourians safety helped to limit potential devastation,” Blunt said. “I will continue to personally oversee the state’s response to ensure we are doing all we can to help those affected by this tragic event.”
The power generated by the Taum Sauk plant was not integral to local customers, providing only 440 of the 12,000 megawatts Ameren UE distributes in the region.
Usually the water level is stopped at 3 feet below the top of the, but it looks like it overflowed and washed away the rock and filler material,” Rainwater said.
After the breach, 9 feet of the reservoir remained full, Rainwater said. That water was later drained.
Ameren reports that in 2004 it made repairs to leaks in the side slopes of the Taum Sauk plant. Cracks caused a daily loss of 2 feet of water until Geo-Synthetics Corporation filled the seems with a new rubber lining.
He reports that Lesterville endured less damage than might be expected at other times of the year. This is because the pool at Lesterville was at the lower, winter-pool level so it could absorb the 4- to 5-foot rise that resulted from the surging water, Smith said.
Smith also pointed out that this was the first time his office had contacted FEMA officials using satellite phone technology. There are now 40 satellite phones with FEMA personnel and first-responders throughout the region.
Gary Rainwater, AmerenUE president, said this afternoon that a preliminary review suggests an Ã¢â‚¬Å“instrumentation failureÃ¢â‚¬Â caused the automatic system to continue pumping water into the upper reservoir, even though it already was full. Under the theory, he said, water splashing over the reservoir wall eroded its crushed-rock structure, causing a Ã¢â‚¬Å“fairly massive breachÃ¢â‚¬Â of about 600 feet in width.
Rainwater said the system that fills the upper reservoir operates on its own and is monitored by AmerenUEÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hydro-power station at Lake of the Ozarks. Thomas R. Voss, company executive vice-president, said there are back-up systems as well as a safety that should shut off the pumps when the reservoir is filled.
The Rev. Bill Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that Jerry and Lisa Toops and their three young children were rescued some time after dawn from several locations in JohnsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Shut-Ins, where Jerry Toops is superintendent. Jackson said floodwater destroyed the familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s home near the park campground. All five family members suffered from exposure.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The water collapsed the house around them, and they just floated out,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Jackson, who was with the family after the water hit. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jerry was in a cedar tree when the rescuers found him. He was cold and has a lot of bruises. Lisa had two of the kids with her. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know where the rescuers found the others.
A 20-foot wall of water smashed into the Toops’ home, sweeping it away. The family members themselves were swept as far as 200 yards away, according to authorities. All that’s left on the site is the cement foundation of the home. Trees on the property are blown down and the site has been turned into a muddy swamp.
The family was discovered by rescuers about 1-1/2 hours after the flood in the field, said Ed Stewart, 59, who lives three miles away, and helped locate them.
The mother and two of the children were found together, another child and the father were found about 50 feet away, Stewart said. They were cold, covered in mud, and so weak they could only manage to make “whimpering sounds,” Stewart said.
Reservoir emptied in about 12 minutes
Rainwater of AmerenUE told reporters that a monitor at the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s station at the Lake of the Ozarks, where the company generates electricity through Bagnell Dam, indicated that the upper reservoir had been refilled by 5:12 a.m., but had fallen back to low level by 5:24 a.m.
The breach in the northwestern wall dropped the water level in the upper reservoir by about 70 feet, he said.
The Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant consists of a 50-acre lake built atop Proffit Mountain that is connected by a mile-long tunnel to a 300-acre lake at the base of the hill. The upper lake is about 700 feet higher in elevation than the lower one. AmerenUE drains the upper reservoir through generating turbines during times of peak electrical demand, then pumps the water back uphill when demand for electricity is lower.
Despite the destruction of the home, residents and business owners downstream considered themselves lucky; the situation would have been far worse if the dam to the lower reservoir had given way, they said. Some even said they had seen worse flooding during heavy rains.
“If that dam had broken, probably all of Lesterville would be under water,” said JoAnn Franklin, who owns a canoe rental business on the East Fork of the Black River