Flooding Missouri affects tri-state area


June 6th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – It was just another Sunday in the small town of Irene, South Dakota – with one exception. The town was celebrating its first tractor-pulling event of the summer. Most of its 400-plus residents poured into the streets to watch the long parade of tractors as they slowly made their way over the gravel.

Farm fields near Mondamin, Iowa begin to take on water (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

But as the procession came to an end, it didn’t take long before residents started discussing the one thing in the back of everyone’s mind: the Missouri River. Most had either seen the flooding, or knew a relative or friend directly affected by the rising water. Many in the town had gone so far as to assist with sandbagging in nearby towns like Yankton and Vermillion.

Chris Healy, a resident of Yankton and student at Creighton University Law School in Omaha, helped with the effort.

“[I] laid some sandbags…helped with filling some sandbags and then hauling them to build a barricade that’s probably about seven or feet high,” said Healy. “Just trying to do anything we can to hold the water back from getting into people’s homes.”

Healy said the problem strikes a chord for the town of Irene and has driven many of its inhabitants to go out and lend a hand.

“Really a group effort amongst the people from the town and the owners of all the homes and their families and friends,” Healy said. “It’s kind of a collaborative effort… People are definitely aware of the problem and probably everyone in the area has either been out to help or known someone who’s out to help….everyone’s connected to it in some way,” he said.

South Dakota was among the first states to feel the effects of the flooding. Now, states like Nebraska and Iowa are left reeling from high water releases by dams on the Missouri River.

Gavin’s Point is one of those dams. Located between Niobrara, Nebraska and Yankton, it is the farthest of the six dams located down the Missouri River. Last week, Omaha District Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Bob Ruch announced that proper water release is pivotal for Nebraska and Iowa in the weeks ahead.

“We are looking at running 150,000 cubic feet per second out of our Gavin’s Point Dam,” stated Ruch. “That equates to what we think will be the top release that we have to manage during this system…God willing and [if] the weather doesn’t give us any more problems.”

Ruch said that by around June 9th or 10th, the Corps is looking at ramping up releases from Gavin’s Point and is preparing for what’s to come.

Across the river in the small town of Mondamin, Iowa, resident Brian Peterson and others have already begun evacuating their homes, located in low-lying areas along the river. He said the damage to his property has already become evident.

“Right now, I’m trying to get all my worldly possessions up to higher ground…My outbuildings will get flooded… my home… it’s going to be touch and go,” said Peterson.

Peterson said that in the end, the rising water levels have been disastrous.

“It’s….It’s…a mess. It’s…It’s terrible….There’s going to be people all the way up and down this river bottom out of their houses for months and months…It’s just….It’s heartbreaking,” said Peterson.

Residents of Mondamin, IA begin evacuating homes (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

On Sunday, 600 residents of Hamburg, Iowa were forced to evacuate after the Missouri River breached a levee south of town. Several other levees along the Missouri River have also been weakened as a result of flooding. Only time will tell if they will continue to hold.

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