Strategy Sessions Help Make Ste. Genevieve Seem Like War Zone With PM-Flood Rdp, Bjt
STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. (AP) _ At noon each day, Mayor Bill Anderson becomes presiding general as strategy is crafted against a giant friend turned foe.
″Ste. Genevieve is a civilian war zone. The Mississippi River is now our enemy and we’re fighting it,″ said Anderson, 71.
The daily strategy sessions are in a large operations room at City Hall, where National Guard officers in fatigues work alongside levee crews in red helmets and assorted volunteers in nurses’ smocks, Red Cross T-shirts and rubber boots.
″This is critical coordination. Like a war, all hands must know what’s happening,″ Anderson - Army Air Corps, 1942-46 - declared after running Friday’s 45-minute meeting, which drew about 40 officials and volunteers.
″You can’t have factions. This is how we sing off the same page,″ the mayor said.
Like a battle zone, the historic town of 4,400 is divided into ″sectors″ for staging and combat - north, central, south and rural farming country. All share a flooding threat from the roiling Mississippi.
Anderson hears from the north end that prison inmates are working on levees, with scores more volunteer sandbaggers expected. ″This weekend, they’ll probably come out of the woodwork,″ says Mick Schwent, Ste. Genevieve County’s emergency services chief.
On the farm levees south of town, 100 barge loads of rock have been dumped, and there’s another 1 1/2 miles of levee to strengthen.
″You have to see it to believe how much that levee means to the south end of town. If it goes, it could be a domino effect,″ Anderson says, and many in the room quietly nod.
Then come specialized status reports - on sanitation, utilities, counts of sandbags, rolls of plastic sheeting and water pumps.
The Coast Guard checks in with what sounds like a report from a petting zoo: ″We rescued three cows, two dogs, two fawns and a kitten,″ says Ensign Jerry Nauert. His men lassoed the cattle, holding their heads above water so they could breathe until reaching shallow water.
″Sounds like a boat rodeo,″ Anderson quips.
The laughter is followed by tears, as the mayor bids farewell to a real military man, National Guard Col. Calvin Broughton. He is chief of facilities at Guard headquarters in Jefferson City, but has been overseeing levees at Ste. Genevieve for weeks.
The meeting participants stand in emotional spontaneity and applaud as Anderson pumps Broughton’s hand. The colonel was due to leave earlier in the day, ″but I pulled rank to get him here so we could say thanks,″ Anderson says. ″He’s our hero.″