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Corps ratchets up water release

Because of extensive rains far north of Kansas City, the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing 160,000 cubic feet of water per second Thursday from the lowest dam on the Missouri River.

That’s 10,000 cubic feet per second beyond the record 150,000 cubic feet the Corps began releasing last week after an unusually wet spring upriver. The previous record release rate was 70,000 cubic feet per second in 1997.

But rains in Montana were nearly 300 percent the normal amount for this time of year, which took away the Corps’ flexibility, said Jody Farhat, chief of the Army Corps Missouri River Basin water management division.

The increased surge will take several days to get to the St. Joseph and Kansas City areas, but earlier releases caused more levee problems in northwest Missouri.

Residents in Atchison County were told to evacuate after a levee was breached Thursday evening about three miles north of the Brownville bridge, emergency management officials said. The affected area is west of Interstate 29, encompassing the Langdon, Watson, Nishnabotna and Phelps City areas.

In Holt County, an overtopping and breach near Fortescue prompted a flash-flood warning for west-central Holt County until 1:30 p.m. today.

Also in Holt County, the Canon Drainage District Levee was overtopping Thursday and was expected to do so again within 24 hours, Corps officials said.

Other developments: St. Joseph:

The river level was expected to hit 27.2 feet before dawn today. At 27 feet, the river could encroach on Water Works Road on the northern edge of city prompting an evacuation order for five or six homes that would lose road access.

“If some residents don’t want to leave, we’re not going to force them out,” said public works official Andrew Clemons.

Atchison, Kan.:

The city plans to shut down vehicle traffic along River Road if the river gets around 30 feet. The river was at 29.6 feet at midafternoon Thursday and is projected to reach 30.2 feet Saturday. The higher level poses no threat to city infrastructure or the public water supply.

Rushville, Mo.:

A levee north of Atchison near Rushville is expected to be overtopped this weekend, said Jud Kneuvean of the Army Corps of Engineers. Water would likely make its way to U.S. 59 eventually, he added. Late Thursday water had lapped over a portion of the levee and sandbagging was under way.

Bean Lake:

Sandbagging will continue in this area of Platte County on Saturday and Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Volunteers should report to the intersections of River and Wooston roads.

“The levee is very saturated,” said Kneuvean. “We do not expect that levee will hold throughout this event.”

Leavenworth:

Water reached 25 feet on Thursday, and the National Weather Service forecast that the area could see 27 feet by Saturday. Earlier this week, officials closed the airport and Second Street. The wastewater treatment plant would be evacuated at 30 feet, but that’s not expected this weekend.

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