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Ongoing rains worsen record-breaking floods along Missouri River

Rising waters threaten Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and are expected to push south soon. The Midwest will be underwater all summer, say officials.

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Local officials in some states are criticizing the Corps for not opening the dams earlier, which Mr. Grode challenges. “Conditions in the basin were not as extreme as they are now,” he says. “We did not see a great need.”

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Water is already surging at all six of the dams along the river, breaking records at each one. According to Grode, runoff waters are highest at Gavins Point, located near Yankton, S.D. The flow there reached 10.5 million acre-feet, breaking a previous record of 7.2 acre-feet, set in 1995.

While Grode says the dams are all “very safe,” the levee system is more vulnerable – and will likely be stressed throughout the year, he warns. Tributary systems that feed into the Missouri River are also expected to flood.

A levee breach near Hamburg, Iowa, on Sunday resulted in a mandatory evacuation of residents. Corps officials have not yet determined what caused the breach. The National Guard dropped 22 thousand-pound sandbags on the levee, as an emergency measure to keep the water from flowing through the breach. Flooding will stretch two miles inland, officials predict.

Rising river levels have resulted in sandbagging efforts and road closures in virtually every state bordering the river. In Fort Calhoun, Neb., about 20 miles north of Omaha, a nuclear power plant declared an emergency and shut down. The Omaha Public Power District, which operates the plant, said it does not expect any release of radioactive material.

Surging waters can also delay emergency efforts underway to repair the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway in Mississippi County, Mo., which was opened in May to mitigate surging Mississippi waters traveling downstream toward Memphis.

Officials are uncertain how much the flooding along the Missouri River will deepen the waters of the Mississippi River. “Obviously, with more water coming from the Missouri River,” Maximuk notes, “there will be more water in the Mississippi River.”

Their combined flows could lead to more flooding in southeast Missouri and southern Illinois, where local waters levels are still elevated from similar flooding in May.

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