Hermann overcomes recent flood while staying prepared for next

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HERMANN – The city of Hermann just recovered from December floods, but it's ready for the next. While forecasts aren't currently calling for excessive rainfall, the city floods often. 

“We’re a river town, and we have to adapt to what the river throws at us. And we’re very resilient,” said Mark Wallace, Hermann city administrator. “And it’s not really a big deal.”

While Hermann experiences flooding almost annually, one local business owner said December’s flooding was worse than usual.

“In my recollection, this is the worst flood we’ve had, as far as the highest water, since the flood of ’93,” said Kurt Labruyere, general manager at Hermann Ford.

Labruyere said the water eventually rose to about thirty inches in the dealership’s showroom.

But it wasn’t just the height of the water that posed a challenge. The timing of the flood also proved difficult for Labruyere and the rest of Hermann Ford. Since it occurred at year-end, when many deals still needed closure, Labruyere said tthe dealership set up a makeshift office nearby and used a boat to get back and forth.

“The body shop sits above the flood line so we had a hodgepodge of an office set up over there in the break room,” Labruyere said.

But, other than the inconveniences the flooding caused, Labruyere said it didn’t do much damage. He attributed that, in part, to having a plan in place.

“There’s nothing you can do about it ultimately. If it’s going to flood, it’s going to flood. You just kind of make the best of it. Have a plan in place, know what you’re doing, stay safe,” Labruyere said.

According to Wallace, the city has had a plan in place for a while now.

“We have become very familiar with flood stages, what has to be opened, what has to be closed, how to get through town,” Wallace said.

Over the past several decades, Wallace said, the federal government has bought out most of the residences in the flood plain. And new businesses and homes are no longer built in the zone.

As for the few buildings remaining in the plain, regulations exist to minimize the danger potential flooding may cause.

Wallace said homes in the flood plain cannot be rehabbed to more than 50 percent of what the home is worth. Wallace also checks buildings to ensure utilities are placed above the flood plain level and nothing restricts the flow of water.

But it’s not just regulations that keep the town safe from frequent flooding; it’s also the familiarity of businesses and residents with the river, according to Wallace.

“People that live here for most of their lives can look at the predicted river levels and know how the river is going to affect town,” Wallace said.

Although Hermann is now finishing its clean up of town from the December flooding, Labruyere said flooding is never really far from his mind.

“When it's time to get back to going, you just get in, put your head down, get through the dirt and the muck and the mud, and before you know it, it's gone, you're back in business and you kind of forgot that it happned until spring comes,” Labruyere said.