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Possible flooding has surrounding area on guard

Possible flooding has surrounding area on guard

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:01 pm

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
An explosive somewhat more sophisticated than dynamite is being considered as a way to blow apart sections of a southeast Missouri levee, which would alleviate pressure on the levee and prevent major flooding below the levee system.
The good news for southwest Kentucky and northwest Tennessee is the levee plan, even if it is used, should not affect this area, according to Jim Pogue with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In a news release issued today, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said he has placed the county in a “cautionary state of emergency due to record flooding of rivers north of the area.”
No local evacuation order has been issued and the order is primarily a “precautionary move until the Mississippi River crests and begins to fall back within its banks,” according to McGuire.
KY 94 is closed in Fulton County between mile marker 13 and 22 due to water over the road at several locations, according to Keith Todd, public information officer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
He said the highway, also known as the Great River Road, is flooded at several locations where it crosses Little Mud Creek, Blue Line Creek and Big Mud Creek between Cayce and Hickman. KY 166 provides an alternate connection between the cities of Fulton and Hickman.
Due to the large number of closed highways, many motorists are attempting to travel on unfamiliar alternate routes, Todd said. That raises concern that something as simple as making a wrong turn could cause a vehicle to run off into floodwaters.
“We continue to urge everyone to slow down and use extra caution,” Todd said.
Kentucky State Police are also urging motorists to avoid traveling through flooded roadways.
Many motorists are aware of roadways which are prone to flooding, however, due to the prolonged and heavy rainfall throughout the area, officials are beginning to see roadways flood which have never flooded in the past.
This is especially dangerous to local travelers who don’t expect their roadways to be flooded. This is why it is being stressed to be cautious and vigilant for flooding roadways, according to the KSP.
“Travel slowly along rural roadways to allow more time to stop in case you approach flood waters. Do not underestimate the power of a small flow of water across a roadway. Even the smallest amount can sweep most vehicles off the roadway and into flooded waterways,” Trooper Dean Patterson stated in a news release.
In a telephone interview with The Messenger Wednesday, Pogue explained that officials with the Corps of Engineers are closely monitoring the river levels along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, which converge just north of Cairo, Ill.
Recent rains in this area and further north have caused the two rivers to swell past flood levels, and that is putting pressure on levees in the region.
Of major concern to the Corps of Engineers is the levee at the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway. If the Mississippi River continues to rise, explosives will be used to breach a section on the north end of the levee system and then, after 24 hours, a decision will have to be made whether to use explosives to breach the south end of the levee, according to Pogue. He said the decision may come as soon as this weekend, and once the decision is made the plan will be put into action quickly.
Once the levee is breached, Pogue said the opening could divert as much as a half million cubic feet of water per second into the floodway.
The floodway is a federally owned area covering about 130,000 acres on the west side of the Mississippi River and extending southwesterly from below Cairo, Ill., to just north of Tiptonville.
Pogue said such a breach in the Missouri levee system should not have any effect on northwest Tennessee or southwest Kentucky. He explained that a final decision is several “decision points” away from being made by Corps officials.
He described the timing of a final decision as “a moving target.”
What the levee breach is designed to accomplish is to lower the river level by three to four feet at the Cairo river gauge.
Reducing the river level there would be good news for Fulton County officials, who remain concerned about the levee in that county.
The Missouri levee breach plan is also being debated in the federal court system.
Following Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to file a temporary restraining order preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from artificially crevassing the Birds Point levee and using that floodway in the event of high floodwaters, Tennessee Congressman Stephen Fincher and Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander sent a letter to Army Corps of Engineers Major General Michael Walsh, urging him to make every effort possible to protect the entirety of the Mississippi River Valley.
State Sen. Roy Herron announced today he has been working with Gov. Bill Haslam and his administration, Corker and local government officials to make sure all state and federal resources are deployed immediately to prevent flooding wherever possible and to help all flood victims.
“I will continue to work with Governor Haslam and his administration, as well as our federal and local officials to do everything we can to assist all those in need,” Herron said.
Herron offered his toll-free telephone number for residents who need his help — 1-800-449-8366 (extension 14576).
At a meeting Wednesday night in Samburg, city officials there began laying out evacuation plans in the event floodwaters reach the town.
“We just need the people of Samburg to be aware that we do have a plan in place,” Samburg Mayor Larry Gene Davis told The Messenger.
He went over the city’s evacuation plan at Wednesday’s meeting.
In the event Samburg residents do have to evacuate, emergency shelters would be set up at the Eddie Cox Senior Citizens Center and at Second Baptist Church in Union City.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be reached by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 4.28.11

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