‘This broke me’: Flooding after Missouri River levee break devastates ranch owners

Missouri River floodwater sinks Serenity Ranch, displaces Levasy family

The Serenity Ranch in Levasy, Mo. flooded just days before owner Clint Nimmo could sell it at auction. Now he, his two children and fiancee are staying with a friend in North Kansas City and salvaging what they can.
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The Serenity Ranch in Levasy, Mo. flooded just days before owner Clint Nimmo could sell it at auction. Now he, his two children and fiancee are staying with a friend in North Kansas City and salvaging what they can.

Serenity Ranch owner Clint Nimmo said the flood was like a scene out of a horror movie.

Jessica Meadows, Serenity Ranch staff member and Nimmo’s fiancée, woke up around 8 a.m. Saturday, June 1, to make breakfast. Instead, she dropped everything and shouted to Nimmo and his two children to wake up.

Outside their window, their ranch in Levasy was starting to flood.

Meadows called 911 . As they waited for emergency services to arrive with boats, Nimmo said spiders and centipedes were crawling up the walls and onto their backs to escape the water.

“I can’t even explain just the waves of black that took over the house,” Nimmo said.

By the time the crew arrived, the water was coming into the house. The four, their pit bull and four parakeets, rode the boats to safety. They went to the American Red Cross shelter and were later treated for infection from the flood water.

“The day was just kind of a haze,” Meadows said.

Kansas City is currently experiencing its wettest year on record. Serenity Ranch — about 35 miles east of Kansas City — is one of many places along the Missouri River recovering from major flooding.

But that day in Levasy, according to the National Weather Service, the forecast only called for a 30% chance of rain. An official there said the water that hit the ranch came from a broken levee.

Officials told The Star that weekend that the flooding impacted 4.5 square miles of the town and closed U.S. 24. Ten people and their animals were rescued from the area that Saturday.

Farmers and townspeople of Levasy are once again fighting the mighty Missouri River after levee gave way on Saturday, June 1, 2019.

Nimmo said the water also swallowed an entire street of houses on E. Old Lexington Road, which is across the railroad tracks from their ranch.

This disaster is the latest in a string of misfortunes for Nimmo.

In the weeks leading up to the flooding, Nimmo said he and Meadows were in the process of auctioning off the property and many of their and Nimmo’s family’s belongings from the last 50 years, including his late grandmother’s art.

Nimmo has several health issues, which make moving around harder. He was trying to sell the ranch, get disability assistance and move to Arizona with Meadows and his two children, ages 11 and 14. He wants to be in the drier air and closer to his family and Meadows’ brother.

Now all their belongings, except the small backpacks they each carried out during the rescue, are tattered and soggy. There’s mold on the walls of the barn and their house.

Nimmo said their flood insurance only covers the mortgage, not any damages.

“I’m ready to just walk away and leave it all because I know everything’s ruined,” Nimmo said.

Nimmo’s grandmother, Sharon Nimmo, bought the ranch in 2014 for the family. They each had a part: his aunt was the horse person and was planning to run her 4H group through the ranch; Nimmo was the construction and maintenance guy; and his grandmother, an avid art teacher, was going to hold art classes at the ranch.

But after a family falling out and his grandmother’s death in 2016, the tasks fell on Nimmo. He, with the help of Meadows (who began working there around the time Nimmo’s family purchased it), transformed the overgrown ranch into a safe space for a variety of people.

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National Weather Service officials said it was a broken levee on the Missouri River that caused the flooding. James Wooldridge jawooldridge@kcstar.com

Nimmo often had horses and other animals to help kids with disabilities or family issues. The ranch has also hosted events benefiting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Nimmo said.

But even when there wasn’t horses on the property, he said, there was something for the kids to do. Nimmo said he often taught them carpentry skills or found activities to keep them occupied.

If someone couldn’t pay him, that was never a problem, Nimmo said. It was a place for anyone.

“It was just a place where the big city life left for a bit,” Nimmo said. “It was close to the city but it was always calm and peaceful down here.”

Fortunately, when the ranch flooded, there were no animals beside the family’s dog and parakeets, Nimmo said.

At its peak, Nimmo said there was about six feet of water inside the house.

The couple couldn’t get into the flooded house for about a month. Once they did, Meadows said it took several minutes to open the front door because the foundation had shifted. Once she got inside, the refrigerator was tipped over on its side and their walls no longer stood upright. All of their belongings were floating in several inches of water.

Meadows said in order to get through the clean up, she couldn’t think too much about the damage. Nimmo said he couldn’t stand it.

Nimmo said there’s still others people’s cars and trailers on the property. One of the cars belongs to their friend Matthew Brasher. Nimmo fixed the motor for Brasher to give to his son as a graduation gift.

Brasher said he had planned to pick up the car the same weekend the ranch flooded.

Meadows, Nimmo and his children Chase and Shelbie are currently living with a friend in North Kansas City. The plan, Nimmo said, is still to move to Arizona. He hopes they can figure out the move before his kids go back to school in August.

Though, he added, there are too many variables and he has no idea what will happen.

“I’ve been through a lot,” said Nimmo, who had a son die in 2009, 12 days after birth. “I lost my son and my mom. I’ve lost big businesses, lost about everything. But this broke me.”

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