Dealing with Disaster - FEMA Covers Bill for Moving Missouri Town

1 decade 2 years 7 months ago Wednesday, November 09 2005 Nov 9, 2005 Wednesday, November 09, 2005 2:39:36 PM CST November 09, 2005 in News

From Hurricane Katrina to the great floods of '93 we examine FEMA's response then and now.

Here in Rhineland population 176, a tiny town in Montgomery county, a few miles west of Hermann, about 40 miles east of Jefferson City.

FEMA was not here the day of the flood, no FEMA wasn't here until the water started going down, the local fire department was here to make sure people got out.

Imagine living here in Rhineland the summer of '93 the flood waters are rising a foot per hour it's human nature to lose your cool, you don't think clearly the residents here felt like the residents in New Orleans.

Steve Etcher is the excutive director of the Booneslick Regional Planning Commission. Etcher convinced Rhineland's 52 other homeowners to seek higher ground, it was an idea right out of right field.

"We're not going to do the buyout we can't afford it, we'll do a relocation," Etcher said.

Moving the entire town, it made sense at the time. By the time the water receded the houses here had no value. They had no value before the floods.

This used to be a Rhineland neighborhood you wonder why didn't the homeowners have insurance; the homes were old they had been flooded so often the acessor placed no value here so you'd don't insure something that is monetarily worthless and remember FEMA isn't an insurance company either," Etchers said.

Etcher negotiated a deal, he got FEMA to pay $10,000-12,000 to move each house.

"Nobody just gave you a check and said go, we had to propose specifically what the monies should be used for," Etchers said.

Steve Wehrle was the first on top of the hill. Wherle has been Rhineland's mayor for the past 9 years.

Rhineland today includes more than 50 homes overlooking the Missouri River bottom. They were willing to accept a hand up but they weren't looking for a handout.

Shane and Gabrielle Gleeson live up the hill, they were married in Rhineland as the water was rising. Rhinelanders knew first hand about fema.

"They didn't get here right away either took them awhile they had to do their paperwork and stuff to get fema here it's just the way things are done," Shane Gleeson said.

It was done slowly in Rhineland, the move took more than a year.

"Was FEMA crticized or applauded in Rhineland? Yes, when you're totally displaced from your house your emotions run high and FEMA came in with a lot of different temporary employees hired to come in and offer assistance and everytime they would come in it would be somebody different and people get frustrated by that fema wasn't criticized for what they were doing but how they were doing it," Wherle said.

Back in '93 Steve Wherle owned Rhineland's only bar and grill..

We heard on TV that businesses were opening up I could see right where they were coming from I had a business back when the flood hit and that's what everyone thought we have to get back we have to make a living we can't survive without making a living.

Rhineland survived up on the hill. Unfortunately New Orleans doesn't have a big hill like this sitting in their backyard. There's no big hill anywhere near New Orleans.

Common sense says don't rebuild if it can flood again.

Etcher says any community can move... If residents allow the idea to work.

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