Rep. Aaron Griesheimer (D-61) was in town last Friday on Hermann Mayor Robert Koerber’s request to view flooding in the town and to discuss flood emergency relief funding to help with cleanup, as a municipality within Gasconade County. Rep. Griesheimer suggested contacting MoDOT Area Engineer Preston Kramer to get a grasp of the flooding in Gasconade County and to coordinate the findings into something tangible that he could present to other State representatives in counties affected by river flooding in order to get the ball rolling for relief funding.
“To get any money from Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), we have to request the money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to show how much money was lost and how much devastation there was,” said Rep. Griesheimer. “I reached out to Rep. Luetkemeyer’s office and was basically told we would have to show the economic dollars lost [due to flooding]—that we have this issue and need the money.”
Rep. Griesheimer said most of the significant flooding has been along the Mississippi River. He says Hannibal has been hit hard, along with Winfield and Clarksville. He refers to a group of representatives called the “Missouri River Caucus” that share river flooding information such as sandbag needs, etc.
Mayor Koerber is trying to gather information on direct losses to the city, including opportunity costs.
Watching some kayakers traverse the lower City Park, that is now a lake, and referring to recreational vehicle camping sites in the City Park, he said, “We know how many nights we are shut down.” “This place is [normally] booked-up nearly 100 percent from April through November.”
According to the mayor, this amounts to $80,000 in camping fee losses to the City’s coffers.
One Hermann business affected by the flooding is the family-run El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant on Market Street, near Frene Creek. Currently, they are operating out of a mobile trailer pulled in front of the restaurant, a food truck-like operation they take to festivals.
Business owner Jennifer Gallardo told Rep. Griesheimer the business has been at this location 17 years and in that time, they have endured three bad floods.
“Every time this happens, we lose a lot of product and restaurant furniture and equipment,” she says.
The first time it flooded they were closed six months. Preparation for the next flood cut the closing time to two weeks.
“With this one, there’s no water in our building, but since the sewer system has backed up with the flood water—we can’t use our bathrooms or sinks—that’s why we’re out here,” says Jennifer.
She explained the restaurant’s sewer system is connected to the City Park, which is flooded first, causing problems for the restaurant’s plumbing, before a flooding situation is even evident at the restaurant location.
Eloisa is Jennifer’s older sister. She shared how some in the community helped her move things to higher ground. She was touched by the gesture.
“They love us, love our food and want us to succeed,” she said. “I got emotional and was so thankful they were here to help us.”
This Good Samaritan act came about from a previous conversation Eloise had with some of her customers.
United Methodist Church Pastor Beth Duckworth said she and her husband were at the restaurant before this latest flood and Eloisa, or “Elo” to her friends and family, shared her story about restaurant flooding in the past.
“I remembered her story, and this year, stopped and offered to put a team together to go over [and help],” said Pastor Beth. “She was ecstatic and gave me a hug.” Pastor Beth said there were eight from the church and St. Paul United Church of Christ Minister Rodger Keipe showed up with six El Ranchito customer fans.
“Although we didn't know each other, we pulled together and moved tables and chairs, disconnected soda machines and equipment, emptied her walk-in freezer, etc.,” she shared. “The furniture was loaded on trucks and trailers we borrowed, and everything was hauled down Hwy.19 South to a barn and garage.”
She said everyone met back at the church for a meal prepared from the food’s freezers that would have had to be discarded since emergency storage space was limited.
“It was a hard, sweaty afternoon but very rewarding,” said the pastor. “Elo made the comment that she has never felt as loved as she did yesterday.”
The Gallardo family has two other restaurants in New Haven and Union. Some of their food was stored at the restaurant in New Haven and the whole family pitched in to help with the monumental task.
Eloisa’s parents came from southern California to find a better life and settled in Missouri over 20 years ago. There are eight kids in the family and everyone is in the business.
“We’ve always stayed together to help each other out,” she explains. “I’m very grateful.”