In Sibley, the Missouri River rose slightly Wednesday to a little more than 25 feet but is expected to rise the rest of the week and reach 27.9 feet by early Saturday and then fall to 27 feet by the middle of Monday.
HOW HIGH IS THE WATER? In Sibley, the Missouri River rose slightly Wednesday to a little more than 25 feet but is expected to rise the rest of the week and reach 27.9 feet by early Saturday and then fall to 27 feet by the middle of Monday. The moderate flood stage is 29 feet, the major flood stage is 31, and the long-term forecast is that it might reach 28 to 33 feet – probably toward the higher end of that range – for much of the summer.
At Napoleon, the river was at 22 feet Wednesday and barely rising but is expected to rise to 25.2 feet – just into the moderate flood stage – by early Saturday and then fall back to about 24 feet early Monday. The major flood stage is 30 feet, and the long-term forecast is for 25 to 29 feet. Again, officials now say it’s likely to reach the high end of that range.
WHAT'S GOING ON UPRIVER: All three places on the river that the National Weather Service currently lists as having major flooding are in Missouri, and two are at record levels.
WHAT'S COMING NEXT? Recent heavy rains in South Dakota and Nebraska are forcing yet higher releases from the dam most directly affecting the Kansas City area. That could add another half a foot to the river level in Kansas City, and that could last most of the summer, officials say.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today plans to increase releases at the Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, S.D., to 160,000 cubic feet per second. By comparison, in the 56-year history of the dam, the record release until 2011 was 70,000 cubic feet per second (in 1997) but massive snowpack in the upper parts of the Missouri River basin and massive rainful in Montana and the Dakotas have forced the Corps of Engineers to release unprecedented amounts of water this year. Much of the upper Missouri basin has had more than double the normal total annual rainfall in just the first five and a half months of the year.
At Gavins Point, about 300 miles upriver from Kansas City, releases were at 85,000 cubic feet per second by early June, 140,000 cfs two weeks ago and 150,000 cfs last week – a level officials said they hoped would be the maximum for the year. On Tuesday, they said yet more heavy rain in recent days – more than six inches in parts of South Dakota – has forced them to go to 160,000 cfs. That will probably last well into August, though a longer term pattern of drier weather is expected to settle in.
It takes about four and a half days for water released at Gavins Point to reach Napoleon, but officials point out that other factors – mainly tributaries below Gavins Point – also affect river levels in this area.
WHAT ROADS ARE CLOSED?
U.S. 224 remains closed from Wellington to Lexington.
Interstate 29 is closed from U.S. 136 (Rock Port, Mo.) to Iowa 2 (near Nebraska City, Neb.). “This is expected to be a long-term interstate closure,” according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Detours are adding about an hour to the drive from Kansas City to Omaha. The I-80, I-480 and U.S. 275 bridges at Omaha/Council Bluffs are expected to remain open.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps Missouri River Basin Water Management, said the six upstream flood-control reservoirs on Wednesday held 72.4 million acre-feet of water, breaking the record set in July 1975. (An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre to a depth of one foot; an acre is roughly the size of a football field without the end zones.)
That much water gives officials little latitude in raising and lowering dam releases.
“We’re on the razor’s edge,” Farhat said Wednesday, adding that reservoir levels should start coming down – slowly – next week. “We continue to watch the situation carefully and remind you that there’s very little flexibility remaining.”
Corps of Engineers officers say the six dams themselves are operating as designed and are stable.
“We are in safe parameters,” said Col. Robert J. Ruch, commander of the Omaha District.
HOW CAN I FOLLOW THE NEWS? The National Weather Service is at www.weather.gov/kc and has regular updates on NOAA weather radio broadcasts. The Kansas City and Omaha districts of the Corps of Engineers are posting frequent updates on Facebook and Twitter.