St. Joseph prepares for possible flooding

Monday, January 18, 2010 | 6:25 p.m. CST

ST. JOSEPH — Buchanan County emergency officials are preparing for possible flooding on the Missouri River, Platte River or 102 River flooding this spring.

Bill Brinton, emergency management director, said with all the snow the area has received, there is no way to determine how intense possible flooding could be. But so far, the area is not at a dangerous level for flooding.

"The ground is very saturated," Brinton said. "We will just have to stay on top of it."

Since October, the St. Joseph area has seen 8.56 inches of precipitation, according to Mike July, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. As of October, the area was 1.32 inches over the normal precipitation level.

The weather service said St. Joseph has seen a total of 26.1 inches of snow this season, 20 of which came in December.

Although the area has had a lot of precipitation, Bruce Woody, director of public works for the city, does not see an elevated scare for flooding.

Woody said all the snow on street corners and in yards would have to melt in about 45 minutes to cause a flood situation. The Missouri River has to reach 17 feet to be considered a flood stage. On Thursday, the river was at 6.2 feet.

Both the Platte and 102 rivers are still ice-covered, but there appeared to be some thawing on the surface, according to Brinton. As of Thursday, the National Weather Service had the Platte River at South U.S. 169 Highway at 10.41 feet. Flood stage for the Platte River is 20 feet.

"The ground is still frozen," Woody said. "Most of the water will run off or be absorbed before it gets dangerous."

According to the Hydrologic Research Laboratory Office of Hydrology, more than 24 inches of rain fell last winter on central and northeastern Kansas, northern and central Missouri, most of Iowa, southern Minnesota, and southeastern Nebraska.

"The (St. Joseph) area is not in extreme danger yet," July said. The only problem may be with several small rivers in the area that still could have ice lodged in them; ice jams could cause a water backup.

Anyone living along these rivers and those who farm along the rivers may be in more danger of flooding this spring.

"These people have lived along the rivers for many years and know what to do when the waters leave the banks of those rivers," Brinton said.

Lanny Frakes, president of the Halls Levee District, who farms outside Rushville, believes there is always a concern for flooding when the area has seen as much moisture as this winter, but farmers are not in any immediate danger.

"We are still in a good situation," Frakes said. "Dams are filling up, snow is melting and we have had a wetter winter this year. But it's no cause for alarm."

Frakes said because of the wet fall the area received, the ground is so saturated that melting snow will just run off the land. The only concern would be if the area experiences a heavy rain this spring before the ground has time to dry out.

As temperatures rise, county crews are out on a daily basis, Brinton said.

"As the ice breaks up, we will drive our roads to monitor them to see if the ice is pressing against our bridges and what that effect will be on that bridge," Brinton said.


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