Two Missouri River levees fail

Hamburg Levee

The rising Missouri River broke through two levees Monday.  The first near Hamburg, in far southwest Iowa, about 15 miles from Nebraska City.

The town is partially evacuated and floodwaters are expected to reach a secondary levee soon.  45 miles downstream, the raging waters punctured a levee near Big Lake, a resort community in northwest Missouri.  About 30 people living there were told to leave on Monday.

What started out this morning as a 50 foot hole in the levee just south of Hamburg, Iowa has now grown to 300 feet.  The focus now is on a secondary levee – and whether it can withstand the swollen Missouri River.  In just five minutes, the mighty Missouri had punched a hole through the levee, sending water surging over farmland toward the small town, just five miles away.

The Army Corps of Engineers says crews are scrambling to secure a secondary levee surrounding the town.   Colonel Robert Ruch says, “We have concerns with anything behind a levee, all you're doing is reducing risks. For right now, we believe we'll be able to get that elevation raised in the time available as the water flows across the field in the next 48 hours.”

The elevation they're hoping to reach is an additional three feet to the secondary levee by Wednesday, the day floodwaters should hit.  Water will also backfill north of the breach towards Percival.  Officials expect floodwaters to rise to the top of the secondary levee.  If it doesn't hold, the small town of 1,100 would be under 10 feet of standing water.

Atchison County Commissioner Kent Fisher says, “In '93 I saw it first hand.  It's not there yet, but if it does what they tell us, it's going to be worse.”

Officials say it's too early to tell what caused Monday's breach.  National Guardsmen are on hand right now and working around the clock to help build up the secondary levee.