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Bracing for Big Flood on the Missouri River

Kevin Killeen
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Jamie McVicker, Army Corps of Enginners

Jamie McVicker, Army Corps of Enginners

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX)–The National Weather Service is warning the Missouri River has the potential to repeat its flood of ’93 performance in the St. Louis area —  if enough heavy rain hits the upper Missouri River basin.    

More rain is predicted in Montana, North Dakota and Nebraska,  but even without it, the Weather Service says the Missouri River at St. Charles could be well above flood by mid-June.  

The Missouri River at St. Charles is expected crest from 3-to-15 feet above flood stage.  On the high end,  that would tie the old Flood of ’93 levels.

The problem — a wet fall, snowy winter and soggy spring have saturated the upper Missouri Basin.   To keep up with the flow,  the U.S Army Corps of Engineers is planning to “more than double” its typical release of water from six reservoirs along the upper Missouri River. 

The crest is expected to arrive in St. Charles County the week of June 13 through the 20th.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it’s confident local levees will hold.    Jamie McVicker, the Levee Safety Program Manager with the St. Louis office of the Corps,  says local levees have been rated as “minimally acceptable .”

McVicker says the higher rating of “acceptable” is rare, and “minimally acceptable” means a levee “should be able to perform.”

“Everything we’re seeing on the Missouri side currently is rated as minimally acceptable,” McVicker said, “And we’re confident it should be able to withstand the next flood event.”

The Corps also says it expects the Monarch levee protecting Chesterfield Valley to hold.    Chesterfield Valley has seen explosive commercial growth since it was under water during the Flood of ’93.   Work is not yet finished on a project to raise the Chesterfield levee to a 500-year flood level of protection.   Stretches of the levee are only rated to withstand a 100-year flood. 

“I don’t anticipate any impact to the Chesterfield Valley with regard to the levee system holding up,” said Tracey Kelsey, the Project Manager for the Monarch-Chesterfield Levee District with the Army Corps.  

The Corps is also counting on lower levels on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to help absorb some of the water from the Missouri River. 

But for those living behind the levees,  a warning not to get complacent.

“You always want them to understand that there are risks involved, regardless of whether a levee system is rated acceptable” McVicker said, “I mean there is still chance potentially for an acceptably rated levee system to be overtopped or to fail.”

And the National Weather Service says it’s more worried about the duration of the coming flood than its crest level.  “We have a potential to remain at flood stage on the Missouri here through August,” said meteorologist Jason Gosselin, “That’s a lot of stress on those levees.”

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