June 14, 2011 in Nation/World

River breaks levees, threatens two towns

Water near Hamburg, Iowa, may hit second barrier today
Grant Schulte And Josh Funk Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A home is engulfed by floodwaters in Hamburg, Iowa, on Monday. The rising Missouri River has ruptured two levees in northwest Missouri, sending torrents over rural farmland in Iowa and the Missouri resort town of Big Lake.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

HAMBURG, Iowa – The rising Missouri River ruptured two levees in northwest Missouri on Monday, sending torrents of floodwaters over rural farmland toward a small town in Iowa and a resort community in Missouri.

Water rushing from a 50-foot-wide hole in a levee near the southwest Iowa town of Hamburg was expected to reach a secondary levee built to protect the town of about 1,100 people by today. If that levee fails, parts of Hamburg could be under as much as 10 feet of standing water, officials said.

Across the border in Missouri, the river punched a 225-foot-wide hole through a levee about 45 miles south near Big Lake in Holt County. The roughly 30 residents who stayed in the resort town after the river started rising were told to leave Monday.

The Army Corps of Engineers has steadily increased the amount of water it is releasing from dams along the Missouri River to account for excess water from heavy spring rains in the Upper Plains and to clear out space for above-average snowmelt coming down from the Rockies. Releases from the Missouri’s five lower dams should reach 150,000 cubic feet of water per second today – more than twice the previous record releases.

The swollen Missouri River has already flooded several areas in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, and officials predict the problems will linger through the summer.

National Weather Service hydrologist Dave Pearson described the breach near Hamburg as “pretty substantial.” He said water was “flowing through quickly” but still must cross several miles of rural land to reach the Hamburg area.

About 300 Hamburg residents left their homes and businesses last week under an evacuation order after partial breaches in the main levee, which is located about 5 miles south in rural Atchison County, Mo.

In Missouri, Holt County officials said the second levee breach Monday occurred about 5 miles northwest of Big Lake and southwest of Craig. Most of Big Lake’s roughly 150 residents left town before Monday.

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