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Levee woes spur evacuation order on Missouri River in Atchison County

Atchison County, Mo., is under a voluntary evacuation order after two partial breaches in a Missouri River levee and rising waters have worried officials.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be releasing more water than it ever has from dams along the river by mid-June, meaning there probably will be other levee problems like the ones in Atchison County in far northwest Missouri, said Kevin Grode with the corps’ water management office.

Rhonda Wiley, director of Atchison County Emergency Management, said: “This is history being made, so we’re having to take this one day at a time.”

The expected mid-June release of 150,000 cubic feet per second more than doubles the 1997 record at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota.

Officials on Monday released 120,000 cubic feet per second at Gavins Point. Corps officials said high releases will need to be maintained through the summer.

Wiley said the evacuation in Atchison was not mandatory because there has yet to be any immediate danger.

“It is historical, but as far as river issues and river dangers, this isn’t the first rodeo,” Wiley said. “People know what’s right to do for them, for their families.”

The levee in Atchison County is expected to eventually be completely breached, and sandbags have been put down to delay it, said Monique Farmer with the Army Corps of Engineers. For safety reasons, the sandbags were dropped from a helicopter onto the levee.

Officials in Hamburg, Iowa, which is five miles from the river and about 15 miles from Rock Port in Atchison County, told about half the city’s residents to evacuate on Sunday.

“Once the full breach takes place, there will be lowland flooding in that area,” Farmer said.

To reduce flood risk, about four feet is being added to a levee closer to Hamburg, said Col. Robert Ruch with the corps.

The Kansas City District of the Army Corps of Engineers has sandbags available and had issued 1.3 million as of Monday evening.

Parkville will start sandbagging efforts this afternoon. The city was looking for volunteers to help.

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