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‘That night was hell:’ Excelsior police officer remembers the flood

The Excelsior Springs Police Department worked with other area public safety officials to assist residents in the ’93 flood.

Recently retired Excelsior Springs Police Department Sgt. Jeff Kimsey said he received a call from dispatch the night of the flood, asking if he could bring his boat.

Ret. Sgt. Jeff Kimsey stands in the hallway of an Excelsior Springs building, showing the depth of the flood water.

The ESPD worked with the Excelsior Springs Fire Department that night to evacuate homes affected by the flood. Kimsey said areas of downtown Excelsior Springs looked like a river.

“That night was hell,” he said.

Because Kimsey’s boat needed repairs at the time of the flood, he and the ESFD chief acquired another craft and attempted to navigate the floodwaters. He said because the current proved to be so strong, at one point they almost got swept away.

The current struck their boat while traveling close to the Marietta Bridge. The boat ended up hitting a sign, Kimsey said, which allowed the craft’s small motor to gather momentum to propel them across the currents. He said others thought the current swept them away and ran downstream. The concerned officers found a motor vehicle downstream. This vehicle swept downstream by the flood waters, and appeared to be severely damaged. Kimsey said some officers said they thought the boat crashed at that moment.

He said he remembers going house to house, attempting to evacuate. At one point, he said, he tied a garden hose to his waist and used it to help evacuate a family.

“I’m 6-feet-eight-inches and the water was up to my chest,” Kimsey said.

He said he remembers going to the animal shelter where they released all the animals. By the time they arrived, he said, some animals in lower cages already drowned in the rising water.

Because of the waters, the church camp being held at Lake Maurer became surrounded, he said. Kimsey said they contacted camp leaders to ensure the safety of the campers and staff.

After returning to the ESPD station, Kimsey said they found flood waters up to his knees. The ESFD went in and moved all their electronics to a higher elevation earlier. If the ESFD hadn’t done that, Kimsey said, flood waters would have destroyed much of the ESPD equipment.

After the cleanup began, Kimsey said they found fish, snakes and turtles in the Hall of Waters swimming pool.

Describing the destruction, Kimsey said it appeared to be something he would see in a movie.

Twenty-five years after the flood, the town has recovered. Downtown remains bright and vibrant, and the Hall of Waters houses the City Hall and other employees. Still, many will never forget the night the river took over the town.

By Kimberely Blackburn • kimberely@leaderpress.com

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