Heavy rains cause flooding in Midwest

Levees fail and evacuations continue

BY HEATHER MOYER | TOPEKA, Kan. | May 12, 2007

Heavy rains have forced the Kansas River near Topeka out of its banks and into communities.
Credit: National Weather Service

Midwestern residents continued to watch rising rivers this weekend as others began to cope with damage from floods that hit many states from the Dakotas to Missouri this week.

High water broke through and overtopped at least 20 levees in Missouri. Flooding and evacuations were also reported throughout Oklahoma.

More than 300 residents in Levasy, Mo., left their homes Wednesday morning due to the quick-rising Missouri River. Residents in the town of Agency also were forced from their homes as the Platte River moved in.

Levee breaks around Big Lake, Mo., promptly submerged the town Tuesday night.

Flooding brought on by heavy rains over the past five days has forced thousands of people in the Midwest from their homes as rivers and streams approached levels that some meteorologists said have not been seen since the major Midwestern floods of 1993.

In Oklahoma, residents in Cache, Indiahoma and the Wichita Mountain Estates were evacuated from their homes Wednesday morning by boats and jet skis due to high water, according to the state's Emergency Management Office. Six families in Apache were evacuated Tuesday night due to flooding in that town, it said. An emergency shelter was opened in Lawton for residents displaced there by flood waters.

Storms and thundershowers were possible over much of the state through Friday. A flood watch for much of the state was in effect until Thursday morning. Roads throughout the region were closed due to high water.

In Medicine Park, residents fearing a dam failure evacuated their homes Wednesday.

Oklahoma officials also reported several tornadoes.

More than 500 residents in a Topeka, Kan., neighborhood had to be rescued by boats Monday as a local creek rose quickly after more than 6 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. The evacuation occurred along the Shunganunga Creek in the city and Shawnee County. Burlingame, south of Topeka, also reported water rescues.

Rain totaling 6 to 9 inches fell in a short time across the region, all part of the same storm system that dropped more than 150 tornadoes across the Plains last weekend, including one that leveled the town of Greensburg, Kan.

Emergency officials in Ellinwood in central Kansas said at least 70 homes were flooded over the weekend. That area received more than 13 inches of rain from Friday through early Monday. Flooding has been reported in Saline, Stafford, Barton, Rice, Harper, Osage, Lincoln, Riley, Barton, Leavenworth, Washington and Doniphan counties. Many of the areas have declared local emergencies.

The Missouri Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) reported a state of emergency was in effect for 12 counties with flood damage. The Missouri River and many smaller rivers and creeks have left their banks. Extensive flooding and evacuations occurred in the communities of Amazonia, Nodaway and Rosendale in Andrew County.

The agency said the Atchison County communities of Tarkio and Fairfax suffered flood damage and that residents in St. Joseph and Lewis and Clark Village in Buchanan County were evacuated. Extensive flooding was also reported in the city of Mosby along the Fishing River in Clay County. The Grand River prompted evacuations in Pattonsburg and Gallatin in Daviess County.

At least 20 homes in the DeKalb County town of Cameron were flooded over the weekend. Holt County officials declared a state of emergency after residents were evacuated in Craig due to levee breaches.

Elsewhere in Missouri, officials reported flash flooding and at least 36 affected homes in Buckner and Silbey in Jackson County. Numerous businesses were reported under water in Riverside in Platte County. Residents were evacuated in Parkville.

Roads and highways across the state were closed due to high water, including parts of Interstate 29 and Highways 71 and 136. Officials urged motorists not to drive through flooded areas.

Sand-bagging efforts continued in other communities where rivers had not yet crested.

"Runoff from the excessive rainfall will continue through the week, with high flood crests possible on several rivers across northern Missouri," the National Weather Service said.

"For those living along or near area rivers, this is an extremely dangerous situation and folks should follow evacuation orders issued by local emergency management and law enforcement," it said. "More lives are lost due to flash flooding than any other weather phenomenon."

In Iowa, Gov. Chet Culver declared an emergency for Harrison, Pattawattamie, Montgomery, Decatur and Fremont counties due to flooding.

More than 1,500 residents in Red Oak and Coburg were advised to evacuate early Monday due to the rising East Nishnabotna River. Officials there expected the situation to get better Tuesday as the weather improves. Flooding was also reported in Pisgah along the Boyer River. Water remained high in Harrison County's Willow Park and Missouri Valley and an emergency management official there said many homes were affected.

Residents in Nebraska relaxed a bit as river levels started to recede. Jim Bunstock of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said damage assessments were being conducted.

"It affected primarily the southeastern corner of the state," Bunstock said. "The town of Beatrice in Gage County had a fair amount of flooding. We also had some in Falls City in Richardson County and in Nemaha County. Those are all along rivers and we expect it there."

Bunstock said the water appeared to be receding and that the rivers had crested.

The storm system remains stalled over much of the region. Flood warnings and watches remained posted for much of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri as well as parts of North and South Dakota.

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