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Rains send river toward record level

Tuesday, May 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Mike Cooper, right, owner of Cooper’s Landing, moves the docks and everything of value from his store and home to avoid the rising Missouri River. Cooper’s Landing suffered a first-floor flood during the Great Flood of 1993.

The Missouri River is expected to reach levels not seen since the Great Flood of 1993 in some places by later this week.

Jason Braswell and others spent Monday afternoon at Cooper’s Landing pulling docks and heavy equipment away from the 34-foot projected water levels.

By the numbers

•When the river reaches 21 feet, the water will spill into low-lying areas. •When the levels reach 30½ feet — as projected for Wednesday — streets along the river will begin flooding. •The National Weather Service estimates the river will reach 34½ feet in Boonville by Sunday morning. •Record levels of just over 37 feet were reached in 1993.

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“The floor here is at 31 feet, so we’re moving everything,” he said.

Heavy rains of 3 to 5 inches to the northeast, along with saturated soils, are contributing to near-record projections, according to the National Weather Service.

River heights are expected to increase into the week as the rainwater makes its way into the Missouri River and tributaries from higher areas.

The estimates include coming predicted rainfall, said Jim Kramper, the weather service’s warning coordination meteorologist. If the predicted rainfall were to be greater than expected, water levels could rise even more. But Kramper said rainfall similar to last weekend’s isn’t expected.

“You know when you get up over 10 feet, you’re going to have some problems,” Kramper said.

Water levels in Boonville are expected to reach 12 feet above flood stage, meaning some roads and possibly the Missouri-Pacific Railroad track could fall victim to high waters.

M.L. Cauthon, Boonville’s director of public works, said that when the river reaches 21 feet, the water will spill into low-lying areas. But when the levels reach 30½ feet — as projected for Wednesday — streets along the river will begin flooding.

The National Weather Service estimates the river will reach 34½ feet in Boonville by Sunday morning. Record levels of just over 37 feet were reached in 1993.

“There’s not a lot we can do,” Cauthon said. “We are taking an inventory of supplies, counting sandbags, that sort of thing.”

Susie Stonner, of the State Emergency Management Agency, said the county and city governments can purchase empty sand bags from the Army Corps of Engineers. They are recommended to call in advance for pick-up locations.

Stonner said that water could reach the 1993 level but added that steps have been taken since that time to decrease property damage.

Fifty-four communities and about 4,500 landowners participated in a land buy-back program that turned high-risk areas into parks, recreational fields and farmland.

As of Monday afternoon, the Missouri Department of Transportation was not expecting flooding on major roadways in central Missouri, said Mike Teel, district maintenance engineer.

Jefferson City’s flood stage, the water height at which flooding begins, is 23 feet. This level is expected to be surpassed by Wednesday and reach 34 feet by Saturday. Teel said to expect some flooding in low-lying areas including around the Truman Building, which houses many government offices.

“In cases like this, there are a lot of variables involved when deciding what a river can do,” Kramper said. “I’m sure there will be adjustments before Saturday. Now is the time to get your ducks in a row.”

For updated information, go to the National Weather Service Web site at riverwatch.noaa.gov.


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