Missouri flooding keeps sandbaggers busy
Story Highlights• Rivers breached or topped dozens of levees across Missouri
• No serious injuries or deaths reported in the flooding
• Missouri River, others cresting as they move toward St. Louis
• Inmates, National Guard hold back water with sandbags
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- Levee breaks along the Missouri River flooded farms, highways and railroad tracks and left homes surrounded by water as flooding that's inundated the region was expected to peak in some spots this weekend.
Near-record flood levels dropped in parts of Missouri, but rose in northwest and central parts of the state, as worried residents removed valuables from their homes and filled sandbags to protect river communities.
A barge that floated loose in Glasgow was captured by the Missouri State Water Patrol about 60 road miles downstream near Hartsburg, officials said. The water patrol planned to tie it up until the waters recede, Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull said.
Inmates from St. Joseph prison and National Guard members filled sandbags to try to protect a water treatment plant, schools and an ethanol plant near Craig, where the Missouri River dropped a few inches Thursday.
The water got within "a hillbilly's whisker from going over in several places," Holt County Sheriff Kirby Felumb said Thursday.
Rivers breached or topped dozens of levees across the state, officials said.
No serious injuries or deaths had been reported in the flooding, said Brian Hauswirth, a spokesman for the State Emergency Management Agency. Thunderstorms raised rivers and generated tornadoes that claimed 12 lives in Kansas. (Watch what's behind recent extreme weather )
The most recent levee break occurred Thursday afternoon between the towns of DeWitt and Brunswick, flooding farmland, slowing traffic on U.S. 24 and damaging railroad tracks.
Another Carroll County breach south of Norborne had flooded about 15,000 acres of cropland and left about 75 rural homes surrounded with Missouri River water.
Big Lake, in Holt County in northwestern Missouri, suffered some of the worst damage in flooding Monday night and Tuesday, after several area levees were breached. Most of the 32 rescues the Missouri State Water Patrol has conducted since flooding began have been in the Big Lake area. (Watch why one Big Lake resident insists on staying in the flooded town )
By Thursday, rooftops were still all that could be seen of some of the 450 to 475 homes flooded in Big Lake. Authorities spent Thursday taking some residents to rescue their pets and retrieve medication.
"We can't do much for the property," Felumb said. "There's no need to let a family pet die if we have resources."
Statewide, the flooding has led to the evacuation of several hundred people, including some residents of Levasy and the Ray County town of Hardin, where the 1993 flood surge toppled headstones and unearthed hundreds of caskets.
In Levasy, a breached levee left at least 15 homes with up to 8 feet of water in them, said Deputy Ronda Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
State officials said two other communities -- Rushville and Napoleon -- were within 500 feet of levees that were broken or had been topped. But the damage was less extensive, Hauswirth said.
Although the river crests were lower than forecast in many areas, residents remained anxious. Many were here for the 1993 floods, among the most costly in U.S. history.
The rain-swollen rivers and streams that make up the Missouri River system are causing damage in different spots as the water makes its way eastward toward St. Louis, where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi, said Suzanne Fortin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
In Jefferson City, the Missouri River was expected to crest Sunday at 8.7 feet above flood stage, which could cause flooding at the municipal airport and other low-lying areas below the bluff where the state Capitol sits.
During a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center, Gov. Matt Blunt said joint state and federal damage assessment teams were being dispatched to 17 counties, and about 100 Missouri National Guard members had been deployed around the state.
He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepared about 1.2 million sandbags, about 132,000 of which already had been distributed to help fight the flood by Wednesday.
Torrential rain Thursday caused flash floods in parts of southern Missouri, closing some roads. Near Gravois Mills, in Morgan County just northwest of the Lake of the Ozarks, authorities said the normally empty Little Proctor Creek filled with 4 to 6 feet of water in 20 minutes.
East of Jefferson City, the Missouri State Water Patrol closed a stretch of the swollen Osage River to boaters.