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As two levees break upstream, Kansas City area awaits flooding

Updated: 2011-07-01T05:30:52Z

By KATHLEEN POINTER

The Kansas City Star

Monday brought two levee breaches and impending interstate closings, and the worst of the Missouri River flooding is yet to come.

A South Dakota dam that has been releasing extra water for weeks will hit a peak today.

That means even more trouble for Hamburg, Iowa, and Big Lake, Mo., two towns near Missouri River levees that completely breached on Monday. Many residents in each town had already evacuated.

Hamburg is protected by an additional levee, but the Army Corps of Engineers was unsure how well or how long it may hold up.

The 300-foot levee breach in Atchison County, Mo., near Hamburg also prompted plans for closing Interstate 29 in the area. Iowa Department of Transportation officials expect water will meet the road on Wednesday. Detours are planned.

The interstate closings may extend into Missouri. It already has been closed near Council Bluffs, Iowa.

A secondary levee in Holt County, near Big Lake, may help to hold off water in that area. Monday’s breach occurred downstream of a recent repair.

The breaches won’t lower the flood stage downstream toward Kansas City, but it probably will delay the peaks, Corps officials said Monday. Originally officials expected the highest water to take about four days from today’s release in South Dakota to reach this area.

The releases from Gavins Point Dam will hit 150,000 cubic feet of water per second today — more than double the previous release record in 1997 — thanks to heavy rains and high snow melt in the north.

Officials in Atchison, Leavenworth and Parkville say for them, it’s now a waiting game.

Last week, all three took steps to fend off the impending high water. But other cities along the river still need help.

At the Jackson County Legislature meeting Monday, County Executive Mike Sanders said 25 National Guardsmen had been assigned to help Sibley and Levasy residents prepare for possible flooding.

The river is expected to crest sometime Thursday night at Sibley, Sanders said.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, the Red Cross will be on hand.

In addition, the Corps is asking for at least 50 volunteers to help fill sandbags to strengthen the levees beginning Thursday morning. The volunteers need to be able to lift and carry 40-pound bags. To volunteer, call 816-806-9559.

“This is obviously a very tricky situation,” Sanders said.

“We are going to do everything we can do to mitigate the situation.”

Outside the American Legion in Parkville, there is a sign marking where the floodwaters of 1993 hit. More than 9 feet of water entered the hall that year.

“I don’t think it will get in the building, but then again I didn’t think it’d get in the building in ’93,” said Terry Brown, American Legion building manager.

Members of the American Legion were moving out much of the furniture Monday, but planned to keep the bar open as long as possible to keep some revenue coming in. Brown said they could empty out the bar in about four hours if necessary.

Other businesses in downtown Parkville such as the Parkville Coffeehouse and River’s Bend Restaurant and Bar also will stay open as long as flooding isn’t imminent.

Two restaurants in English Landing Centre, which sits closer to the river than downtown but at a higher elevation, have already closed in preparation of the flood. The shopping center is now separated from the downtown area by sandbags.

“It’s better to be conservative and prudent than to wait for a customer to climb the sandbags for a $3 beer,” said Mike Phillips.

Phillips’ wife owns D-lux Lounge and Cigar Deck in the center, which closed on Saturday. Beth Phillips said she is selling nearly everything in the restaurant that is easily replaceable.

Kansas City is still expected to be in the clear. Diana McCoy, public affairs specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers, said the Corps still does not anticipate seeing any levees topped in the metro area.

River levels are expected to remain high at least into August as the record releases from the north continue.


@ Go to KansasCity.com for a photo gallery.

The Star’s Karen Dillon contributed to this report. To reach Kathleen Pointer, call 816-234-4328 or send email to kpointer@kcstar.com.

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