Residents wait, watch rising waters of Missouri
REUTERS MISSOURI VALLEY THE talk around town here these days isn’t so much about bushels of corn per acre.
It’s about cubic feet of water.
After weeks of worrying about the rising Missouri River, people are fluent in the language of flood and names like Oahe, Fort Randall and Gavins Point.
Those are the dams that control what happens here and downstream along the swollen river, which has flooded areas from Montana through Missouri, forcing residents to shore up protections, raise temporary levees and evacuate their homes.
“There was some talk this morning about more than 150,000 cubic feet per second coming out of Oahe,” said Jerry Compton, working on Sunday at a convenience store in Missouri Valley.
If the release from the Oahe Dam is increased further, she said: “We will eventually get water.” The US Army Corps of Engineers increased water releases on Saturday from two dams — Oahe above Pierre, South Dakota’s capital, and Big Bend Dam just downstream — to make room for expected potentially heavy rains through early next week.
Downstream in northwest Missouri on Sunday, water began flowing over levees in Holt and Atchison counties, officials said.
In Holt County, a levee was breached late Saturday in several places, including a 100- foot stretch near Big Lake, said Aaron Abbott, a deputy sheriff and dispatcher.
Water flooded two highways, several homes were under as much as five feet of water and there was extensive farmland flooding, said Diana Phillips, clerk and flood plain manager for the village of Big Lake.
“It’s only going to get worse because there is lots of water coming in,” Phillips said.
In Atchison County, where farmland was flooding, people have been evacuating for days, said Julie Fischer, a dispatcher for emergency services.“ Everybody is pretty much gone,” Fischer said.
“The roads are closing, there is no way in or out.” The Corps has been increasing water releases from five dams in North Dakota and South Dakota to roughly double prior records to relieve reservoirs swollen by heavy winter snows and spring rainfall at the river’s Montana headwaters.
For large cities such as Omaha and Council Bluffs, the amount of water from the releases can be handled.
But for smaller towns north and south of Omaha’s metropolitan area, residents fret that the water could be a problem.
The threat of flooding is stressful, said Compton, who knows her customers by name.