Just one day before, weather forecasts projected excessive rainfall overnight in Pulaski County, but there was no way the community could brace for the disaster that lay in store.
WAYNESVILLE – Just one day before, weather forecasts projected excessive rainfall overnight in Pulaski County, but there was no way the community could brace for the disaster that lay in store.
Fast forward to Aug. 6.
A week's worth of rain continued to pour into Roubidoux Creek surrounding Waynesville, and eventually swelled to a level well above floodplain. As floodwaters bled into a commercial area of the small city, several town residents and employees were left stranded inside a building
Near 10:30 a.m., Rachelle Beasley received a call from her sister-in-law, Trish Beasley, who was one of 11 people stuck inside Beasley's Heating & Cooling, a small business located in north Waynesville on Highway 17.
Among those trapped inside the building were residents from a neighboring community—ranging from infant children to adults—and their pets, whose houses were completely flooded.
Trish, a secretary at the building, said to Rachelle over the phone that nearby Roubidoux Creek had risen, engulfing the building to the point “we couldn't get out.” Murky river water flowed over onto the street making escape by motor vehicle extremely risky.
Upon receiving the call, Rachelle said she remained calm and alerted Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, which already dispatched responders to maintain a secure area near the scene.
Working as Pulaski County Circuit Clerk, Rachelle made her way several hundred feet north on Highway 17 from Pulaski County Courthouse toward the building, but ran into a police blockade just before arriving at Beasley's Heating & Cooling.
“It looked like the shop was an island,” Rachelle said, describing the building. “The river was several feet high with a strong current,” she said in a report issued to the Sheriff's Department on Sept. 8.
Earlier in the morning, volunteer deputy James Bott—who has nearly 18 years of police experience—left his job as a police officer on Fort Leonard Wood to volunteer with area police officials needing flood-related assistance.
“I received a text around 3 a.m. from my reserve team leader and he stated [Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long] needed all hands on deck for the flood,” Bott explained.
Bott was unable to contact a managing officer until 7 a.m., but was eventually allowed to travel to Waynesville to assist area police.
“I raced home, put on my deputy uniform and went back to Waynesville,” Bott said. “As soon as I walked in the door, I asked what was going on.”
After hearing alerts of boats capsizing and witnessing those trapped at Beasley's Heating & Cooling, Bott knew he'd need a boat to help – he just needed clearance to do so first.
First he contacted the command center and was told there was already a sufficient amount of rescue boats in use, but Bott said “that answer just wasn't good enough for me.”
“I advised them of the 11 people that were trapped at the heating and cooling place,” Bott recalled. “I said, 'Look, they're trapped out there. I have a jet boat I can go get and take care of [the situation].”
The volunteer deputy continued making phone calls before eventually being granted permission.
Bott then made his way home to retrieve his boat, but after arriving, he realized his boat wouldn't start after sitting idly at his property for a year. After hitching his boat to a truck, Bott rushed to a department store, bought a marine battery to install into his boat and eventually arrived at Beasley's Heating & Cooling near 11 a.m., ready for a rescue mission.
“The amount of water was just unbelievable,” Bott said, describing the scene. “The only thing that was going through my mind was: 'I can't believe there's this much water.'”
Within minutes, Bott used a nearby driveway to launch his boat into the flooded area, and then asked Rachelle to notify those stranded he was on his way.
“He asked that I call [Trish] and advise them to get the children ready to transport,” Rachelle explained in the report.
When Bott approached the building in his boat, mixed emotions raced through the heads of all involved.
Trish said she was initially “nervous and scared to get in the boat.”
As he was operating his boat, Bott said, “I was thinking to myself, 'This is somebody's yard; this is a ditch line that isn't supposed to have this much water in it.'
“As I got closer, I could see the people – women, children, a couple men – and they were just standing there with what they had on their backs,” Bott said.
The volunteer deputy recognized one woman was coddling an infant child and worked with his rescue partner, Deputy Ron Dishman, to rescue the women and children first.
The two men made their way near the high ground where the 11 victims were stranded. There, those being rescued began piling their belongings into Bott's boat, though he refused to allow them to bring anything other than what they absolutely needed – items for the children involved.
After delivering a woman and several children, including the infant, to safety, Bott and Dishman returned to the building, this time assisted by a second boat, which arrived moments after the first round of rescues.
After bringing the first group of individuals to safety, Bott noticed a fire department rescue boat approaching to assist in rescuing those still trapped inside the business.
Together, the teams made one more trip to Beasley's Heating and Cooling to rescue those remaining inside, as well as four dogs.
Returning his boat to a launch point was difficult as debris made its way inside the boat's impeller.
“I was thinking, 'Man, if this boat capsizes, it's gonna be a bad day for everybody,'” Bott said. “A million things are going through your head when something like this happens.”
But after toggling the throttle back and forth, Bott was able to navigate through floating debris and heavy currents to safety.
“The boats had a difficult time going up river and I was very concerned for their safety,” Rachelle said, “[but] I was relieved and thankful that everyone was safe.”
Looking back at the Aug. 6 incident still affects Deputy Bott.
“I've never been involved in a flooding incident where it was that severe,” he said. “After the situation was over, that's when the fear struck me; everything just flashed in my head what had just happened.”