Image: Flooding in Missouri
Larry W. Smith  /  EPA
Two residents pass by a house in the floodwaters from the Missouri River in Levasy, Mo., on Thursday.
updated 5/11/2007 11:57:31 PM ET 2007-05-12T03:57:31

Levee breaks along the Missouri River swamped homes, farms, highways and railroad tracks as floodwaters that have inundated the region were expected to peak in some spots this weekend. It appeared many areas would fare much better than had been feared days earlier, however.

Near-record flood levels dropped in some places but rose in northwest and central Missouri, as worried residents removed valuables from their homes and filled sandbags to protect river communities.

A barge that floated loose in Glasgow was captured by the state water patrol about 60 road miles downstream near Hartsburg, officials said. The water patrol planned to tie it up until the waters recede, Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull said.

Along the Mississippi River, surging water and debris threatened to knock loose a docked, four-story pleasure barge and slam it into a bridge. Three of the four chains holding it in place broke, but U.S. Coast Guard crews and a private tug boat company were able to secure it.

Stubborn, devastating storm
Rivers breached or topped dozens of levees across the state, officials said. No serious injuries or deaths had been reported in the flooding. The storms that raised river levels also generated the tornadoes that killed 12 people in Kansas last weekend.

Although the river crests were lower than forecast in many areas, residents remained anxious. Many were here for the 1993 floods, among the most costly in U.S. history.

At the State Emergency Operations Center, Gov. Matt Blunt said damage assessment teams were being dispatched to 17 counties, and about 100 Missouri National Guard members had been deployed. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepared about 1.2 million sandbags.

“We were fortunate that a majority of counties made a lot of improvements since ’93,” National Guard Col. Glenn Hagler said.

The rain-swollen rivers and streams that make up the Missouri River system are causing damage as the water flows east toward St. Louis, where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi, said Suzanne Fortin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

In Jefferson City, the Missouri River was expected to crest Sunday at 8.7 feet above flood stage, which could cause flooding at the airport and other low-lying areas below the bluff where the state Capitol sits.

Officials in Chariton County, which includes Brunswick, said the Grand River crested Friday and the levees held. People were sandbagging some low-lying spots. Some basements had water in them, but no serious damage or injuries were reported.

Farmers halt government water release
Farmers in Wooldridge, a tiny town about 15 miles west of Columbia, prevented the state Department of Conservation from allowing floodwaters to pour into low-lying land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the department.

Mike Schroer, the department’s wildlife regional supervisor, said the agency wanted to let in only a small amount of water into a wetland habitat. Levees had cut the area off from the Missouri River, Schroer said, and water needed to preserve the wetlands can only be let in when the river is high. He estimated that 5 acres of the 4,000-acre river bottom would have been flooded.

But town residents stopped water from entering the pipe about 15 minutes after it was opened. John Clay, whose farm is protected by the levee, said two area residents were standing guard to prevent state officials from reopening it.

“This could not be acceptable, and there can be no good reason to do this at this point in time with the river flooding,” he said.

Schroer said the state was not pursuing charges against the residents but instead hoped to hold a meeting in coming weeks so all parties know what to expect when the situation arises again.

“It’s just a miscommunication,” he said.

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