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Flood concerns ease along Missouri

Residents breathe sigh of relief as river crests below forecasted level.


"Even a little bit of water - if that little bit of water is in your home - is a big problem. But it could have been a lot worse and those levee breaks upstream are what kept the water levels down, downstream."

—Mark O'Malley

Earlier this week, the Missouri River and many of its tributaries in western Missouri rose over levees, closed roads, inundated homes, forced evacuations and even broke barges loose from their moorings. But by Saturday morning, people, particularly those downstream, were breathing a sigh of relief when the "worst case scenario" never materialized.

"The river ended up cresting a little lower than what was originally expected," said National Weather Service forecaster Mark O'Malley . "We had reports of spillovers earlier in the week in several small towns along the river, and those caused some minor flooding, primarily in farmlands.

"Even a little bit of water - if that little bit of water is in your home - is a big problem," he said. "But it could have been a lot worse and those levee breaks upstream are what kept the water levels down, downstream."

Susan Green, emergency management director for Cole County, home to Missouri's capital, said that while she was sorry for those displaced by the floodwaters, she was relieved that the forecasted flooding never arrived in central Missouri.

"We have a levee at 30 feet in Jefferson City and took precautions because it was predicted to go as high as 34 feet," Green said. "However, I'm happy to report that it appears to have crested at 29 feet, so other than having some soggy ground in our flood plain area, we stayed high and dry."

O'Malley said the Missouri River was expected to remain at flood stage, especially in areas between Kansas City and Jefferson City through Tuesday or Wednesday. Because those high waters could cause problems, flood warnings were expected to remain in effect at least through the weekend for the counties that border the river.

The Missouri Emergency Management Agency said water remains over portions of roads in the towns of St. Joseph, Atchison, Leavenworth, Sibley, Napoleon, Waverly, Miami, Glasgow and Boonville, where flood stage levels in those towns range between 18 and 23 feet. Until water recedes from the roadways, motorists were advised not to drive through posted barricades.

O'Malley said the floodwaters would continue to move toward St. Louis, where the river intersects with the Mississippi, but added that he didn't expect any additional problems.

"The streams that feed into the river have started to subside, so as the water continues to travel downstream, it won't be picking up much more than normal," he said. "That should keep the Missouri at its current level."

The town of Big Lake in Holt County in northwestern Missouri suffered some of the worst damage. Nine levees were breached Monday night and Tuesday, submerging some 500 homes. As of Saturday, rooftops were still all that could be seen on many of the houses.

In Levasy, residents were rescued in the night by officers with the Missouri State Water Patrol after raging waters ran over the tops of two levees, surrounding some 30 homes and cutting off escape routes for those residents. Many homes were inundated with 8 feet of water. Nearly 100 homes in Mosby and Missouri City were affected by floodwaters.

State officials reported that the towns of Miami, Rushville, Napoleon, Rosendale, Tarkio, Hartsburg, Huntsville, Rocheport, St. Joseph, Brunswick, Cameron, Glasgow, Chillicothe, Tracy and Orrick all sustained damage to homes and businesses. Hundreds of other homes were evacuated as a precautionary measure in flood prone areas along swollen streams and rivers.

While no deaths were tied directly to the flooding, officials in Buchanan County reported that a St. Joseph resident died of a heart attack Sunday while helping people evacuate. Earlier that weekend, at least 11 people were killed when tornadoes, part of the same storm system that caused the flooding, tore through Kansas.

Flooding, tornadoes and severe weather also struck Oklahoma, where Gov. Brady Henry has declared a state of emergency for all of the state's 77 counties. Recovery efforts were under way in cities, towns and rural counties throughout the state.

Flooding was also reported in parts of Iowa and Nebraska.

In Missouri, numerous state and federal agencies were called in to assist with the flooding.

More than 100 members of the Missouri National Guard were activated to help with evacuation and sandbagging efforts. In addition to assisting with evacuations, water patrol agents were called in to retrieve a barge that had broken loose in Glasgow. It was harnessed and secured near Hartsburg where it was expected to remain until floodwaters subside. Highway Patrol officers took to the air in order to monitor flooding in the affected areas.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Natural Resources were working on drinking water and sewage issues in flooded areas. The state Agriculture Department was compiling information on crop losses. To date, no livestock losses have been reported.

Gov. Matt Blunt has requested that joint federal and state damage assessment teams survey at least 17 counties to determine uninsured damages and economic losses.

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