Heavy rain driving Missouri River higher

Monday, June 27, 2011 | 5:07 p.m. CDT; updated 4:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — Heavy rain has driven short-term forecasts for Missouri River levels at Boonville and Jefferson City to their highest levels since record amounts of water were released from reservoirs upriver.

Storms over the Missouri River basin resulted in significant rainfall in western Iowa, eastern Nebraska and Missouri, including up to 6 inches in some areas of northwest Missouri.

The Missouri River was 23.4 feet on the Boonville gauge Monday and forecast to crest at 28.7 feet Thursday. The river was expected to reach 29.4 feet at Jefferson City. The forecast showed the river staying above 28 and 29 feet, respectively, until Sunday.

Towns along the river in Boone County will be largely unaffected by a river level of 28.7 feet. McBaine's highest levee protects up to 34 feet, Huntsdale's up to 35 and Hartsburg's up to 32. Barriers placed along the Katy Trail in Rocheport on Friday protect the town's low-lying areas up to 34 feet.

While the impact should be minimal, the forecast levels are high enough to grab the attention of local emergency management.

"It just makes us monitor a lot closer to see if we get any more local rain," Fire Chief Scott Olsen of the Boone County Fire Protection District said. "If there's any trending that starts shooting above 30 feet, we'll take action then."

Olsen said conference calls regarding flood preparation had been occurring weekly among the city, county and the mayors of the river towns. They have begun holding those calls daily, he said.

The Boone County Public Works Department received a delivery of 100,000 sandbags Monday, in addition to the 100,000 previously estimated in inventory, said Steven Sapp, spokesman for the Columbia/Boone County Office of Emergency Management. Some supplies have already been strategically positioned along the river.

When the river reaches 28 feet, it does cause some minor flooding. Smith Hatchery Road, which leads to Cooper's Landing, floods when the river reaches 26 feet; the nearby Easley River Road floods at 24 feet.

Route K at McBaine closes at 26 feet, which could limit access to Columbia's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

City workers have stockpiled two months' worth of supplies at the plant and received approval from the Missouri Department of Transportation to raise the roadbed level if needed, plant engineer Michael Anderson said.

Candy Sorrell, assistant director of emergency management for Cooper County, said the only areas to flood at 28.7 feet are low-level farmlands along the river and along Petite Saline Creek. She said it would not close any roads and that the river does not reach Boonville or Wooldridge until it surpasses 30 feet.

A river level above 30 feet would overflow levees in Jefferson City, meaning floodwater could reach the city's sewer plant and cause the airport to close. It would also close some businesses along the river.

Forecasts for much of the Missouri River Basin are relatively dry after Tuesday, which should drop the river to near 25 feet at Boonville, hydrologist Kevin Low of the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center said.

Low said the river should remain around 25 feet at Boonville until the basin gets more rain. The long-term forecast shows normal rainfall for the Missouri River basin.

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