Missouri River breaches levees in two counties

The Missouri River over-topped levees in Atchison and Holt counties in Missouri on Sunday, prompting evacuations and road closures.

Communities all along the river are preparing for a summer of high water. After a significant snow melt and unusually heavy spring rains, Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota started releasing 150,000 cubic feet of water per second on Tuesday. The record release rate is expected to continue throughout the summer.

A 2-foot rise in the Missouri River over 24 hours led to water overtopping a levee in Atchison County, Mo., early Sunday morning.

“The 2-foot rise was not something that we anticipated,” said Mark Manchester, Atchison County’s deputy director of emergency management and 911. But the Army Corps of Engineers had expected water to overtop the levee at some point, officials said.

Sunday’s water flow damaged the 12- to 15-foot-tall earthen levee too significantly to combat with sandbags, but Col. Bob Ruch of the Army Corps of Engineers said the river level may dip down some today.

Atchison County emergency management issued evacuation advisories to people in the communities near the levee — Watson, Phelps City and Langdon.

Water hadn’t reached any homes by late Sunday afternoon, and Manchester was unsure whether it could.

“It’s still a waiting game,” he said. “We’ve never dealt with this much water before.”

The area hit a record crest of 45.24 feet by 8:30 p.m. Sunday — a few inches higher than the floodwaters of 1993.

Flooding prompted the closure of U.S. 136 in Atchison County, which cuts off access over the Missouri River to Brownville, Neb.

The river has been overtopping the levee west of the village of Big Lake in Holt County since Saturday evening, prompting an evacuation there.

Rising water prompted the closure of U.S. 159 south of Big Lake, which cut off access over the Missouri River to Rulo, Neb.

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