The upper reservoir at the Taum Sauk Dam failed early Wednesday morning, sending a wall of water rushing down the Black River. The reservoir is part of a power plant run by Ameren. A spokesperson says the break is 500 to 600 feet wide. The break sent a wall of water 200 yards wide down the side of the mountain, emptying the reservoir's 1.5-billion gallons in about 12-minutes. That's a rate of 125-million gallons per minute. Had it been summertime, hundreds of campers at Johnson Shut-ins may have been hit by the water. Company officials said Wednesday afternoon that instrument failure apparently caused the breach. The plant was maintained remotely during the overnight hours from a facility at the Lake of the Ozarks. Authorities in Reynolds County, Missouri say several communities have been evacuated. They say that as far as they know everyone has been accounted for.
A family of 5 was rescued shortly after the breach. The family was rescued when their home was swept away in the water. They live in the house because the father, Jerry Toops, is superintendent of Johnson Shut-Ins State Park near the base of the plant. Three of Toops' children, ages 5, 3, and 7 months, were hospitalized in critical condition. The children were found a quarter-mile away from their home, clinging to branches. The 5-year-old and 3-year-old were intubated with breathing troubles, meaning medical personnel are helping them breath. The 7-month-old was suffering from hypothermia. The older children were taken by ambulance to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where they arrived at about 12:45 p.m. The youngest was eventually taken by helicopter, once the weather cleared, to Cardinal Glennon. A fourth person was also reportedly hospitalized.
A paramedic at the scene, Chris Hoover, said "We'll never see anything like it in our lifetime again." A truck driver, Greg Coleman, was hauling a load of zinc when he was hit by a wall of water. "I had no idea where it was coming from -- I travel this road every day," he said. Coleman climbed onto the roof and saw that another truck and a car were also submerged, with the drivers also on the roofs. The water receded within minutes. Coleman said he then heard a man screaming for help. Badly bruised, the man was clinging to a cedar tree while his young children held onto other trees. Rescue workers arrived and rescued the family. It is unclear if that was the family of Jerry Toops. Several vehicles, including a tractor trailer, were swept off of Highway N.
It could have been a terrible tragedy had this happened in the summer months.
Bill took a look at the fallen log and dared me to walk across it. If I were younger...
You can't appreciate how high up we were, or how deep the ravine is from the angle of this picture.