Flash flooding forces evacuations, causes damage in Peabody

Staff writer

By the time Peabody Public Works Director Darren Pickens was notified of a problem by a signal from the Olive Street lift station Sunday morning, rising floodwaters from Spring Creek were beginning to roll over the banks.

Estimated overnight rainfall amounts as much as 6 inches inundated Peabody’s Spring Creek and Doyle Creek in a matter of hours, quickly trapping residents on Maple and South Olive streets.

Eight individuals were evacuated from flooding neighborhoods. At the same time, no one was able to come into Peabody or leave by any of the roads in the low-lying, southern end of town.

“At one point we contacted Marion County dispatch to get in touch with the BNSF railroad,” Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke said. “We wanted them to check their equipment as we thought when Doyle Creek spilled out of its banks, the flood waters might cover the tracks.

“I don’t think it ever went over the tracks, but it was close.”

The railroad tracks intercept the southern border of the community and run nearly parallel to Doyle Creek as far as Florence, with many chances along the way to create flooding problems for trains.

The city backhoe was pressed into service to rescue some individuals when it was apparent the fire trucks were not going to be able to reach some residents at the south end of Olive Street. Ronnie Harms delivered three residents to higher ground in the bucket of the vehicle.

“I thought the evacuation went really well,” he said. “There were no problems and everyone was able to get out and some even were able to save some belongings.”

Most of the evacuees took up temporary residence at Legacy Park until it was safe to return home.

“We had a couple of rooms available downstairs in assisted living and they just came in and made themselves at home,” Legacy Park Administrator David Scott said. “We fed them lunch and most of them stayed until midafternoon, I believe. We were certainly glad we were in a position to help.”

A sidewalk along the south side of the former Downtowner-Tumbleweed building was in disarray after the water receded late Sunday afternoon. Large cut limestone slabs that made up the sidewalk had shifted into an open area that served as a walkway to basement businesses decades ago. The ground beneath the sidewalk likely became so waterlogged, it shifted and parts of the slabs slid into the basement area.

“The cave-in made me sick,” Larsen said. “That limestone sidewalk is a part of the original downtown.”

Damage to other downtown businesses was minimal. Water ran into the lower level of the Marshall Auction warehouse, leaving a coat of mud and debris when it receded. Little of the personal property on the lower level was susceptible to water damage.

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