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Monday, June 20, 2011

Several Levees in Northern Missouri Breached

Levees in northern Missouri breached, overtopped
Associated Press
June 20, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Several levees in northern Missouri were failing Sunday to hold back the surge of water being released from upstream dams.
Authorities said water - some of it from recent rain - began pouring over levees Saturday night and Sunday morning in Holt and Atchison counties, flooding farmland and numerous homes and cabins.
A hole in the side of a Holt County levee continued to grow Sunday, deluging the state park and recreational area of Big Lake, 78 miles north of Kansas City.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Kevin Wingert said engineers would monitor the overtopping to try to determine how much of an effect it will have on water flows downstream. "It's too early to say what the full impact will be on it," he said.
Meanwhile, the Nebraska Public Power District issued a flooding alert Sunday for its nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska as the Missouri River continues to rise.
Mark Becker, a spokesman for the Columbus, Neb.-based utility, said the "notification of unusual event" sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was expected as the river swells above record levels. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission.
The plant was operating Sunday at full capacity, and there was no threat to plant employees or to the public, Becker said.
In Missouri, presiding Holt County commissioner Mark Sitherwood said U.S. 159 is closed south of Big Lake because water is pouring over the road, and most of the west side of the community is underwater.
"It's going through in one place that we know of and overtopped in numerous places and there is seepage everywhere," Sitherwood said.
He said most people evacuated well in advance of the flooding. Those who stayed were told Saturday night that water was flowing into the area. A few people live in cabins that have been built up and decided to stay, Sitherwood said.
"Everyone up here knows the routine," he said.
The Big Lake area, where water has been high for the past couple weeks, has experienced major flooding in three of the last five years. But Sitherwood said this year promises to be much worse following weeks of high flows and increasing releases from the main stem dams in Montana and the Dakotas.
"I know they wouldn't admit it, but this is a manmade event," said Sitherwood, echoing a sentiment common in the area that the Army Corps of Engineers is mismanaging the Missouri River. "Nobody is going to tell me it isn't. It is probably going to be historical."
The commissioner said his own home is at risk. "Thank you Corps of Engineers," he said.
The corps has said unusually heavy rains, not mismanagement, are to blame.
"What we are dealing with is a massive weather system that put a lot of precipitation in the system particularly in Montana and northern Wyoming in the month of May," Wingert said. "The end result is that water has to go somewhere."
In neighboring Atchison County, there was a nearly steady flow of water over a half-mile stretch of a levee near U.S. 136 and overtopping at various points to the north that area, said Mark Manchester, deputy director of emergency management for the county. He said the water was flooding several thousand acres of farmland, but so far no homes had been inundated since a breach this past Monday caused about a dozen of the homes to take on water.
Manchester said the river level has reached 44.6 feet, the highest on record and about 4 to 5 inches higher than 1993 flooding levels. He said minor flooding starts at 33 feet and major flooding at 43 feet.
He said residents in the area had already evacuated their homes, and officials who operate the levee went up in a helicopter and saw several "pretty good size holes starting to form."
The officials are predicating another breach, which could displace up to 200 more people.
"That would be worse case scenario," he said. "The information we are getting from the corps is that it's possible."

Missouri River Joint Information Conference Call Report - June 18

The Missouri River Joint Information Center held a conference call June 18 from the Division offices in Omaha, Neb. Tom O'Hara, at the Missouri River Joint Information Center, hosted the call. The following is information from the call:

Opening remarks:

The public is encouraged to call the Joint Information Center at (877) 214-9110 or visit its website, MRJIC@USACE.ARMY.MIL, to contact the information center with questions or concerns.
The Joint Information Center is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Phone calls are forwarded during nonworking hours and will be answered 24/7. The Joint Information Center responded to 17 media requests for Kansas City and Omaha June 18.
Gen. John McMahon said the Corps is monitoring weather carefully and closely. He has serious concerns with levees along the River. There were 3 breaches/over-toppings today. General McMahon sees many challenges ahead.
The Holt County 10 Levee has breached. This levee is located west of Big Lake, Mo., and is north and across the river from Rulo, Neb. This breach was due to water overtopping the levee. The local sponsor plans to cut the downstream end of the levee to allow water to flow through the river bottom to reduce damage in the levee's area of protection.
Federal Levee L-550 near river mile 535.5 north of Highway 136 in Atchison County in the Rock Port, Mo., area is overtopping. The local sponsor has determined the overtopping is too severe for any flood fighting activities to protect this levee.
Federal Levee R-548 across the river from L-550 is overtopping. River levels increased approximately 2 feet from 5:30 a.m. June 17 to 5:30 a.m. the morning of June 18 at the Brownsville gauge.
Current Levee Breaches:
L-575 Near Hamburg, Iowa
Union Township, Near Craig, Missouri
Holt County #10, Big Lake, Missouri
Current Levee Overtoppings:
L-550 Near Rock Port, Missouri
Current Weather Conditions"
It will be a very rainy next three to four days throughout the basin. Strong storms will impact the central states Sunday, June 19, through Wednesday, June 22. These storms will move from eastern Montana and eastern Wyoming to much of the central northern plains and across to the Mississippi Valley region. Extensive rains with amounts greater than 1 inch will move from Montana and the Dakotas to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Expect 2 inches to 4 inches of rainfall over much of South Dakota and northern Nebraska. Rainfall amounts of 3 to 4 inches may be seen in the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota. Some areas in the basin may see as much as 5" to 6" of rainfall. This will be a strong system that is widespread and will have a big impact on the Missouri River Basin. These are cool season storms with summertime moisture, which will bring wide spread heavy rainfall. This is not a typical summertime storm and will produce unusually heavy rainfall. The basin should get a break from the rainfall beginning late Wednesday through Friday, which should be dry. Longer term should see the weather return to more summertime like patterns with more scattered type storms.
Water Release and Reservoir Information:
The Reservoir Control Center will adjust releases with ever changing conditions. Daily planned releases will be posted each day on the Division website around 4-4:30 each day.
Due to the continuing wet weather pattern across the upper basin, releases from Oahe and Big Bend has been increased to 160,000 cfs to move more water into Fort Randall. Weather is continuing to deteriorate in the upper basin and the reservoir control center has very little flexibility remaining. Reservoir levels are continuing to rise within the system. If weather continues to deteriorate the Corps will lose its ability to manage intra-system adjustments and may have to increase releases from Fort Randall and Gavins Point. There are no plans to increase releases from Gavins Point at this time. The Reservoir Control Center is watching weather and rainfall closely and will know more once the current storms pass through the system. Rainfall over the next few days will determine if releases from the reservoirs need to change.
Current plans for the reservoirs are as follows:
Fort Peck 65,000cfs June 18 and then to 60,000 cfs on Monday
Garrison 150,000 cfs June 18 and hold
Oahe 160,000 cfs June 18 and hold
Big Bend 160,000 cfs June 18 and hold
Randall 143,000 cfs June 18, then to 148,000 cfs by mid next week depending on the Gavins Point pool
Gavins Point 150,000 cfs June and hold.
Peak Releases are expected to stay high well into August.
Releases are based on conditions on the ground and subject to change.
Snow Pack Update:
The snow above Fort Peck peaked at 141 percent of normal and is now down to 64 percent of normal. The snow in the reach between Fort Peck and Garrison (primarily the Yellowstone basin) peaked at 136 percent and is now down to 62 percent. The snow in the North Plate basin pecked at 150 percent of normal and is currently down to 54 percent and the snow pack in the South Platte Basin peaked at 150 percent of normal and is down to 42 percent of normal.
Department of Transportation Update:
Interstate I-29 is closed from Mile Post 110 in Missouri north to Mile Post 10 in Iowa. Iowa DOT may close an additional 10 miles north to Mile marker 20 in the next few days. I-29 is also closed from Mile markers 55 to 71 beginning near the Council Bluffs/Omaha area and north.
The Global Detour for I-29 is: I-35 North to I-80 west to I-680 to I-29 north of Council Bluffs
In Iowa: Highway 2 crossing the Missouri River is closed.
In Missouri: US Highway 159 in Holt County is closed-This also closes the Bridge to Rulo. US Highway 13 in Atchison County is Closed cutting off access to the Brownsville Bridge.
Nearly all crossing across the Missouri River are closed in Northwestern Missouri. The best detour across the River is US Highway 36 at St. Joseph or bridges in the Kansas City area.
In Nebraska, Highway 2 is closed, Highway 159 at Rulo and US 13 is closed at Brownsville.
High water and roads closures are impacting traffic flow and motorists are encouraged to plan accordingly and drive with care. High water is expected through August so many of these roads will remain closed for an extended period. Currently 40 miles of I-29 are closed.
Omaha District Update:
The Omaha District continues to help build many levee projects and improvements as they continue to be in a full flood fight at several locations within their area of operations.
Water is now up on the Ditch 6 levee protecting Hamburg, Iowa. The water is now at 915 feet and there is approximately 4 feet of freeboard at this time. Teams from the Omaha District are on the ground and in the air monitoring levees. Colonel Ruch reminds local levee sponsors to continue to monitor levees and communicate with the Corps of Engineers to address any problems or concerns. Sponsors should take special note of internal drainages as storms move through the basin. Cities and towns with temporary levees need to watch these levees closely and be ready to pump storm water back over the levee to the river.
Kansas City District Update:
The KC District is providing technical and direct assistance to Missouri River stakeholders at many locations. The Kansas City main area of concern is from Rulo, Neb., to Kansas City.
Tributaries remain in good shape on the lower Missouri River.
The Kansas City District has 3.4 million sandbags on hand, eight pumps and two sandbagging machines. Currently, there is one sandbagging machine operating in St. Joseph, and one in Craig. Contracts are in place for more sandbag machines and pumps, if needed.
The Missouri River is closed to all traffic from River Mile 450 to Gavins Point Dam. There will be a Public Meeting Tuesday evening, June 21, in North Kansas City, Mo., at 5:30 p.m. at the North Kansas City Community Center.
The KC District EOC is Current at Level II, subject to changes based on river conditions.
The KC District is conducting daily recon flights to survey river conditions.
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