Communities along the rising Missouri River prepare for flooding

As the Missouri River continues to rise, Ken Tanner isn’t taking any chances.

“I have a story-and-a-half house, and in the ’93 flood water got up into the top floor,” he said. “I’m expecting that to happen again.”

Tanner started moving things last week from his home in Sugar Lake, Mo. — about 45 miles north of Kansas City — to a storage unit in St. Joseph.

The levels marked by the great flood of 1993 may be topped in coming weeks at some spots along the river.

Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota is expected by mid-June to begin releasing up to 150,000 cubic feet of water per second, more than double the previous record in 1997, thanks to heavy rains and snow melt up north.

“Precipitation has led to near-record or record runoffs this year,” said Jud Kneuvean with the Army Corps of Engineers. “We haven’t seen flooding like this in that area since the 1950s.”

On Thursday, the threat of rising water prompted warnings from the Corps of Engineers and a visit to St. Joseph by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Corps is holding conference calls with emergency managers and others, and plans to meet about levees this week, said Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the Kansas City district.

“We’ve issued almost 300,000 sandbags in Missouri so far,” Kneuvean said. “We’ve issued them across the state, but the bulk of them are going north of Kansas City.”

Along the river
Holt County, Mo.:

About 1,000 people living in the flood plain have been asked to be prepared to leave, county clerk Kathy Kunkel said. A “tremendous amount” of people have already started to leave the area.

“Holt County experienced widespread flooding last summer and, unfortunately, it looks like there will be widespread flooding this summer,” Kneuvean said.

St. Joseph:

“We are at present time filling sandbags,” St. Joseph public information officer Mary Robertson said last week. “We have met with our local levee districts to make sure they’re all on board.”

The city had 60,000 sandbags on hand as of Thursday.

If the river reaches the high end of the predicted water levels, the city will evacuate one of the public works facilities, and officials plan to close the downtown Riverfront Park at about 27 feet. While most residential areas will remain unaffected, about 10 homes north of the city will be evacuated at about 24 feet, Robertson said.

Officials in Buchanan County, where St. Joseph is located, met with residents in the southwest part of the county Thursday night and told them to start making plans to evacuate the area. Presiding County Commissioner Royal Turner said it could affect a couple of hundred people.

“With this, unless we get a big event like a rainstorm up north, it will be a gradual rise,” Turner said. “There is ample time to look at it and take precautions.”

Atchison, Kan.:

Officials are starting to develop flood maps to alert people about the rising water.

“There are a handful of businesses down low, but the rest of the city goes up into the river bluffs and is fairly well-protected,” said Trey Cocking, Atchison city manager.


The campground and the community center will encounter flooding, but because of the city’s layout, it is unlikely residents will be evacuated, said Paul Kramer, assistant to the city manager.

“Even in ’93 we didn’t have any displaced residents,” he said.

Wyandotte County:

Officials continue to monitor the river and work with the Army Corps.

Amy Phillips, Army Corps public affairs specialist, said the Corps did not expect any significant flooding on the Kansas River barring a significant increase in precipitation.


Officials anticipate English Landing Park will flood.

“We’re taking precautionary measures to remove property out of the park — park benches, shelter houses, porta-potties,” said Major Ken Davis with the Parkville Police Department.

As of last week, Davis said there were no plans to evacuate residents.


The city is working with other agencies, including emergency management and the Corps, said Mike Shelton, deputy emergency management coordinator for Riverside.

“We’re trying to get a grasp on what impact it will have on the Platte County area when this release of water comes down to us,” he said.

Kansas City area:

Flooding is expected to be minor to moderate.

“In Kansas City, it’s hard to hit the flood stage because of the dynamics of the river,” said Kneuvean. “The impact is usually less severe because the levee systems are much more robust.”

According to the National Weather Service, if flood levels reach the estimated high point of 39 feet, flood walls might be closed in the central industrial district. If closed, they will prevent the passage of trains and construction vehicles that normally travel on both sides of the levee, said Colleen Doctorian, Kansas City Water Service public information officer.

Missouri City, Mo.:

Clay County officials ordered 25,000 sandbags and sand to prepare for the possibility of significant flooding and have plans to set up an emergency center in the city, according to a Clay County Sheriff’s Department news release.


Jackson Countyofficials are paying especially close attention to Sibley and Levasy, Mo., said Capt. Mike Montgomery with the Sheriff’s Department. The areas may be evacuated in the coming weeks.

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