Top 10: The Biggest Stories Of The Year From Lake Of The Ozarks

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Top Stories Of 2019 - Photo Collage

Lake of the Ozarks is many things, but "boring" is not one of them.

It may appear to be just a handful of small towns on a Lake, when you're reading a demographic study. But every summer, the Lake becomes the third-largest population center in Missouri, as millions of visitors come from across the nation to stay and play at the country's favorite recreational lake.

At LakeExpo, we love to tell the stories of this place: be they bizarre, outlandish, hilarious, harrowing, interesting, or important. These were some of the biggest, most-read, most intriguing stories of the year...


#1 - The Boat That Wanted To Fly

This one made national news. The driver survived, but had serious injuries. The story spread quickly, likely because of the bizarre image: a powerboat seemingly suspended between water and sky, lodged precariously in the roof of a dock.

And as if the crash weren't harrowing enough, the process of pulling it out—which involved a telehandler balanced on a barge—was a nail-biter.

#2 - That Flippin' Dock-Flippin' Storm

There's always at least one: a spring storm that leaves Lake of the Ozarks second-home owners scrambling to check if their dock or home was damaged. This year there were two, and this was the first. It was over almost as quickly as it started: winds reportedly hit 60 mph as the storm rushed through the Lake area. Some people reported seeing waterspouts. Trees were downed, at least one dock was flipped, and then, it was done.

#3 - The Eldon Tornado

A tornado ripped through the heart of Eldon on May 22. The EF-1 hit winds of 104 mph, the National Weather Service estimated, and it only picked up steam as it plowed 19 miles northwest, for nearly an hour. By the time it hit Jefferson City, the tornado was an EF-3, and it laid waste to a swath of Missouri's capitol.

A chill-inducing, viral video offered a glimpse of the tornado on the horizon, illuminated only for a moment by a flash of lightning:

#4 - The Snake Whose Eyes Were Bigger Than His (Or Her) Unhinged Jaw

This one we found in an Ozarks-dedicated Facebook group, and knew our readers would love it as much as we did. It's a photo series, depicting a water snake that:

1. Went fishing

2. Caught a fish by using its tail as a lure

3. Struggled mightly to muscle this giant bass down its gullet

4. Began to realize maybe this wasn't going to work, and...

...well, you can click here to find out how that story ends:

#5 - Concerns About Truman Dam (And Why They Were Not Imaginary)

An Army Corps of Engineers (which owns/operates Truman Dam, which impounds Truman Lake and discharges directly into Lake of the Ozarks) study gave us all some pause, in March of this year.

The study rated Truman Dam as "potentially unsafe," giving it the second-highest DSAC Class rating. The dam was structurally sound, the ACOE explained, but a severe rain event could cause issues. The concern: that the dam could be overtopped by an extreme influx of water, and that could structurally undermine it. A resultant dam breach would certainly be catastrophic, with the worst-case scenario putting 90,200 people at risk with $11.3 billion in land/property risk, the ACOE said.

That would only be a concern in an extreme flooding event, the corps emphasized, and some in the Truman & Lake of the Ozarks communities dismissed LakeExpo's initial coverage as alarmism.

Then, a few months later, Truman Dam—holding back months of accumulated floodwaters from Lake of the Ozarks and downstream communities—reached its capacity. Historic flooding forced dam operators to open the floodgates and send water to areas already struggling with flooding downstream. The Corps called the actions at Truman Dam “precautionary and necessary to ensure public safety,” noting, “human life & safety are the priority in reservoir operations.”

Thankfully, catastrophe was averted, and the dam operators are to be commended for their great work in a nearly impossible situation. But the flooding was a sobering reminder that nature doesn't play by our rules.

#6 - The Jackpot Fish

Some people fish for pleasure, some fish for food, but at the twice-a-year Lake of the Ozarks Big Bass Bash, anglers are fishing for cash. This year, two fishermen won $100,000 for a single fish: the largest catch of the weekend.

#7 - When The 'Cliffs Of Insanity' Gave Way

You know how risky activities seem less risky when you do them more often? Well, drivers who run the gauntlet through the "cliffs of insanity"—the rock walls that line stretches of Highway 54 through Osage Beach and Lake Ozark—likely never give those cliffs a second thought.

Until one collapsed. Then it was one of the biggest stories of the year from the Lake, and likely had a few drivers eyeing those cliffs suspiciously for awhile as they sped along Highway 54.

#8 - Child Brutally Beats Woman Who Is Trying To Help

This was a harrowing, and widely-read story. A local woman who stopped to help, in what appeared to be a situation where a woman and child were in distress, ended up receiving the brunt of the 10-year-old's rage. She was hospitalized, and the child was taken into juvenile detention and psychiatric evaluation.

#9 - The Bounty Hunter Searching For His Nephew's Dog

A boy whose world already seemed to be falling apart took another blow when his dog—"Poo Dog"—was stolen from Shady Gators. His uncle happened to be a bounty hunter, and the search began.

The story resonated with the Lake community, and comment threads were filled with words of support for the boy and outrage at the theft. Unfortunately, as far as we know, the dog was never found.

#10 - Lake Of The Ozarks On TV

Netflix's Ozark may be award-winning television, but another award-winning program shined a much more pleasant spotlight on Lake of the Ozarks, in November.