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Sandbagging Effort Helps Prepare For Possible Levee Breach
County Officials Keeping Close
Eye On Swollen Missouri River

Monitor river conditions through the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and Sam Davis, Road and Bridge Administrator for Jackson County Public Works, look over a levee near Levasy on Thursday, June 16.

JUNE 20, 2011 -- Jackson County officials are anxiously monitoring conditions along the swollen Missouri River. Parts of the County and the Greater Kansas City region are at risk of being flooded.

This morning the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flood warning that includes parts of Jackson County (near Sibley), as well as parts of Platte and Clay counties.

"We will be keeping a watchful eye on the situation," said County Executive Mike Sanders. "We understand the potential for flooding is very real, and we're being proactive so we can be as ready as possible should the river continue rising." 

More than 60 citizens answered the call for volunteers to fill sandbags in Levasy last Thursday, June 16, in an effort to be prepared for a quick response if the Missouri River breaches levees in eastern Jackson County. They joined 29 volunteers on a Missouri Department of Corrections work-release crew and employees from the both Jackson County Public Works and the County Health Department.


The NWS Advance Hydrologic Prediction Service indicated that the river level at Sibley was at 25.47 feet at 8:24 a.m. this morning -- down from 25.8 feet Sunday morning. The NWS anticipates the level reaching 26.5 feet Wednesday, June 22.

"We didn't have flooding in 2007 until the level reached 30 feet," said Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Director Mike Curry. "Flood warnings from the National Weather Service are going to be pretty standard over the next two months. For us, if the water level gets consistently to 28 or 29 feet, that's when things will get touchy. The levees get saturated and can erode."

Levees Topped

On Sunday, June 19 -- after storms caused the water level to surge two feet during a 24-hour period -- the Missouri River poured over the top of earthen levees in both Atchison and Holt counties in northern Missouri. Flooding in areas up river, Curry noted, does alleviate pressure "down stream."

But even further up the Missouri River, the Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to release water at the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota at the rate of 150,000 cubic feet per second. Record rains in South Dakota and melting snow in the Rocky Mountains have necessitated releasing water at Gavins Point.

"Record upstream reservoir releases are ongoing and will continue for much of the summer," the NWS stated in the flood warning it issued at 9:55 this morning. The NWS added:

This will cause many downstream locations along the Missouri River to remain in flood into August, with the potential of significantly higher river stages and more serious flooding concerns. In addition, an active weather pattern is expected to continue this week with periodic chances of thunderstorms. The highest probability for significant rainfall the next five days will be from the Dakotas, through Nebraska and Iowa, into northern Missouri.

Threat From Rain

Persistently wet weather will add to the stress area levees are under due to the ongoing Gavins Point Dam water release.

"The flooding we had in 2007 was purely from a rain event," said Curry. "Now we're dealing with the release of water at Gavins Point, too. They're going to continue releasing that water most of the summer, so the unknown right now is how much rain we'll be getting."

Ominous clouds formed in the sky over Levasy while volunteers worked to fill sandbags Thursday, June 16.


Volunteers Fill 6,000 Sandbags

Volunteers filled 6,000 sandbags in Levasy last Thursday (June 16), and those bags are now being stored near where they'll be needed if the threat of flooding from the Missouri River heightens. 

The sandbagging effort was an enormous success, stated Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Director Mike Curry, due in no small part to the innovation of the County Public Works Department. A crew from Public Works' Road & Bridge Maintenance Division used an auger on a sand truck that allowed the 40-pound sandbags to be filled at the rate of about one every two seconds -- as compared to about 15 seconds each when using a shovel.

The Jackson County Health Department gave volunteers free tetanus shots; the Salvation Army provided 150 meals. The Cass County Emergency Communications trailer was also made available during the sandbagging effort.

Other agencies involved last Thursday included the Fort Osage Fire Protection District, Buckner Police Department and Fort Osage School District. Levasy Mayor Phyllis Dieckman and Buckner City Clerk Jerry Shrout also participated.

"It was a great team effort," County Executive Mike Sanders said. "We can't thank the volunteers enough."


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