The American Red Cross says as long as the residents of Waynesville are in need, volunteers will be on hand to provide temporary shelter, food and other essentials to the flood ravaged community.
Mike Flanagan of the local American Red Cross said the chapter set up a relief shelter at the St. Robert Community Center before dawn Tuesday after receiving a call for help from Pulaski County officials.
Flanagan said the call for help came in around 3:45 a.m. and by 4:30 a.m. the shelter was ready to begin taking in residents displaced by flooding.
By noon about 35 people had sought shelter at the center. "We don't have the capability to accept clothes, then sort them at this time," Flanagan said. "We are accepting mostly monetary donations so we can buy supplies."
Six to seven Red Cross volunteers worked the day shift, and a different crew of seven or so were expected to work overnight.
The first wave of Red Cross volunteers came from Waynesville, Rolla and Cuba and other surrounding areas.
Red Cross trailers full of emergency supplies were parked outside the community center while inside, flood victims were given cots, blankets and pillows along with meals to eat and restrooms to use.
Red Cross volunteer Mike Miller was unsure how much space the center could offer but said that each person is given about 40 square feet of space.
"It's a place to sit and stay warm while you regroup. This is temporary relief," Miller said.
Of the flood victims who sought temporary relief at the center Tuesday, Miller said, "Everyone seems to be pulling together and taking it in stride."
Miller said the center is looking for a place where flood victims can take showers and is working with the Humane Society to house pets belonging to flood victims.
Miller said many residents are finding alternate sites with family and friends but as long as there is a need, the volunteers will continue to help out.
"We'll be here as long as the community needs us," Miller said. It is the need and the loss that many residents are facing that make the situation so dire.
Many residents awoke unaware Tuesday morning only to find damage and devastation.
Gary Heckathorn has lived in his home just behind the Waynesville Police Department since 1997.
"I haven't seen it like this since back in the early '90s," he said. "That one, I didn't have any problem with, but this one is a whole different ballgame; it's the biggest [flood] I've seen."
In his basement, Heckathorn said the water had reached as high as the upper windowsills – nearly 8 feet – before the flood even crested.
A small sump pump was running constantly but couldn't handle the massive amounts of water from the Roubidoux Creek water pouring into the basement.
Page 2 of 2 - Heckathorn was prepared. He and a friend had moved his fifth-wheel vehicle to safety and packed a couple of suitcases before evacuating.
"I've been here long enough I know what's going to happen," he said. "Sometimes you just have to ride it out."
That doesn't make it any easier for Heckathorn. It's been a tough year already with the tragic death of his wife.
"It's a double smack to me this year," he said, holding back tears. "It's been a bad year for me."
In the Highway 17-Route T intersection, Elizabeth Heydt was awakened around 4 a.m. in the morning by thunder.
As she went about getting ready for work she had no idea the basement of her home, where her dogs were, was filling with water.
"I took a shower and got ready," she said. "I went to the bathroom and saw the lights [in the basement]."
Downstairs, Heydt said, her three dogs were barely above waist-deep water.
"If I wouldn't have checked that, I would have come home to three dead dogs," she said.
"The water has subsided, but it's all muddy in my basement and everything is upside down."
Ed and Samantha Wilson, of Ed Wilson Auto Care, off Historic Route 66 in Waynesville, woke up to knee-deep water.
The couple live below their shop, which flooded after heavy rains swept through the area. They were able to save their vehicles and their cat.
At one point, Ed said, the water was receding, but then it came back up.
They have lived in the same building since 1985. This is the worst flood they have seen.