Missouri River levee fails in southwest Iowa

Thursday, June 30, 2011 | 1:55 p.m. CDT

PERCIVAL, Iowa — The Missouri River breached another levee in southwest Iowa on Thursday, inundating yet more farmland but not prompting any new evacuation orders or flash flood warnings.

The breach, about a mile northwest of Percival in Fremont County, had grown to about 200-yards-wide by 9 a.m., Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman John Benson said.

Local emergency officials told the weather service that the breach is expected to flood areas that have already been evacuated between Interstate 29 and the river.

Percival sits just east of I-29, and about 16 miles northwest of Hamburg where a secondary levee was built in early June to bolster the town's defenses when floodwaters broke through another levee in northwest Missouri. The Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday's breach near Percival happened on the same levee, which stretches along the river from southern Iowa into northern Missouri.

National Weather Service forecaster Josh Boustead said the new breach was discovered after the river level downstream at Nebraska City dropped about 6 inches to 27.6 feet. The breach occurred shortly before 4 a.m.

Residents in the area threatened by the breach were ordered to evacuate their homes last week, so authorities did not plan to issue a flash flood warning or evacuation order. Nevertheless, Fremont County officials planned to check the area for remaining residents.

The floodwaters flowed into Percival shortly after noon Thursday.

Percival resident Dave Lutz said he had never seen floodwaters this high in town. He was among the very last to leave Thursday when he walked through nearly a half foot of floodwater to a waiting truck.

The Iowa Department of Transportation extended the closure of Interstate 29 because of the breach near Percival. The interstate is now closed from exit 24 near Bartlett, Iowa, south to Rock Port, Mo.

Local emergency management officials have said the water flowing through the breached levee near Percival could eventually join with the floodwaters from failed levees south of Hamburg. That would increase the pressure on Hamburg's new levee, which has held so far.

The corps says it is releasing huge amounts of water into the river to deal with unexpectedly heavy spring rains and substantial Rocky Mountain snowpack. Officials predict the river will remain high at least into August.

The river is expected to rise more than 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in most of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet over flood stage in parts of Missouri. Any significant rain could worsen the flooding especially if it falls in Nebraska, Iowa or Missouri, which are downstream of the dams.

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