Two Children Swept Away By Water Improving; Chopper Video Shows Destruction

6:14 AM, Dec 16, 2005   |    comments
  • Chopper 5 view of the Taum Sauk reservoir after the breach.
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  • To read Wednesday's coverage of the reservoir breach, and to see more pictures and video,click here.
  • For more links to stories, videos and pictures, see the links at the bottom of this story. KSDK-Two of three children swept away by water in Wednesday’s reservoir breach are now out of the intensive care unit. 3-year-old Tara Toops and 7-month old Tucker Toops are now in fair condition. Their 5-year-old brother, Tanner, remains in critical condition. Tanner and Tara were both intubated with breathing difficulties, and Tucker was suffering from hypothermia. All three are being cared for at Cardinal Glennon Children’s hospital. It was 5:30 Wednesday morning when the children, along with their parents, Jerry and Lisa Toops, were swept out of their home by a wall of water hundreds of yards wide. The family of 5 was found clinging to trees after the wall of water receded. They were found more than a quarter-mile from their home. The family lived there because Jerry Toops is the Park Superintendent at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, a popular camping and recreation destination in the summer. A benefit fund was set up at "Jerry and Lisa Toops Benefit Fund, First State Bank of Ironton, P.O. Box 168, Ironton, MO, 63650." Meanwhile, Chopper 5 was among the helicopters not allowed to fly over the area in Wednesday's weather. The pictures to the right come from Chopper 5 on Thursday morning. Inspectors were "shocked" to find fill in reservoir wall. Inspectors tell the Associated Press that the area that collapsed was filled with soil and small rocks. For decades, says Chief Dam and Reservoir Inspector James Alexander, inspectors assumed the main material was granite. AmerenUE says it will address Alexander's concern as part of its investigation. The investigation into the massive reservoir breach so far points to a computer malfunction, say officials with Ameren UE, the company that operates the power plant at Taum Sauk. During the overnight hours, the plant is run remotely from operations at the Lake of the Ozarks. The company uses computer equipment to monitor how much water is to be pumped to the upper reservoir from a lower reservoir at night, when energy demand is low. During the day, the water from the upper reservoir flows back down into the lower reservoir, generating electricity from turbines. Company officials believe the computer indicated the upper reservoir needed more water, when it was, in fact, full. More water was pumped up, causing the reservoir to overflow, putting more pressure on the wall, and causing it to collapse. The break measured about 200 yards wide, allowing 1.5-billion gallons of water to flow out in a matter of just 12 minutes. That created the wall of water that cut a path of destruction near the Black River and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. Ameren UE officials released two phone numbers for people who were hurt or had property damaged by the reservoir breach. Those numbers are 314-554-4740 or 800-552-7583, extension 44740. A truck driver was among those who saw the Toops family. Greg Coleman was hauling a load of zinc when he was hit by a wall of water. "I had no idea where it was coming from -- I travel this road every day," he said. He climbed onto the roof of his truck, then, as the water receded, he heard Toops yelling for help. Toops and his family were hanging onto trees. The breech was in the northwest end of the reservoir. The plant was built in 1963 Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the plant and reservoir were inspected in August and found to be properly operated and maintained. Gov. Blunt signed two State of Emergency Disaster Executive Orders that authorize state agencies and the Missouri National Guard to respond to the area. Click here to hear from Governor Blunt about the devastation. Johnson Shut-Ins State Park is considered by many to be one of Missouri's premiere parks. Each year, people come to the park for camping, hiking and swimming. The park got its name from the way it was formed. More than a billion years ago, hot volcanic ash spewed into the air, then cooled forming igneous rock. Later, water covered the rock. The land rose, the sea fell, and the volcanic rock was exposed. The black river became confined or "shut-in" to a narrow channel. A quarter of a million people visit the park every year. For continuing coverage of the reservoir collapse, stay tuned to NewsChannel 5.
  • To read Wednesday's coverage of the reservoir breach, and to see more pictures and video, click here.
  • Click here to hear from witnesses about saving the family, including a paramedic.
  • Click here to hear from the community about the family.
  • Click here to hear from Governor Blunt about the devastation.
  • Click here to hear from company officials, and to see pictures of the empty reservoir from the air.
  • Click here to see a story of a tour of the plant in 1980.
  • PHOTO GALLERY:A look at the reservoir and destruction.


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