Continued rain and major flooding in multiple states is straining resources for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, officials said Tuesday during a teleconference.
The Corps’ Kansas City District, which oversees 18 dams including Tuttle Creek Lake that work as a system, currently has two lakes that are 100 percent full: Perry Lake and Long Branch Lake. Tuttle is nearing its top. Those lakes have begun to increase outflows to avoid exceeding capacity.
Those releases threaten to contribute to flooding along the Missouri River. Officials say the river has fallen in the last few days, which means more room in the channel for upstream dams to make releases, though they’re concerned about the effect heavy rain that fell in several states Tuesday, as well as more precipitation in the forecast early next week.
Since May 22, Corps officials said 26 levees in the district have been overtopped or breeched. As of Tuesday, six river gauges showed water at major flood stage, and 11 gauges showed water at moderate flood stage.
Officials said Tuesday the good news is that all the dams are in good condition and doing what they were designed to do, which is to work as a system to maintain streamflow and prevent flooding.
The Corps has begun sending additional personnel to various lakes to monitor conditions and ensure that everything is working properly.
The Kansas City District is operating at “increased dam safety posture,” said Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief in Kansas City, and is operating 24 hours a day until further notice.
“We’re in flood condition really from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis,” Kneuvean said.
He said they’ve given out 680,000 sandbags in Kansas and Missouri in the last week. Requests for assistance have outpaced available resources, though. They’ve been taking equipment — 15 pumps, three sandbag-filling machines and some gravity filling machines — to the places most desperate for help.
Lately, he said, that’s been Brunswick, Missouri.
“Life safety is our first priority,” Kneuvean said. “Resources will be provided where they are most needed.”
John Remus, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division, said the Corps is putting between 200,000 and 250,000 acre feet of water into storage every day.
An acre foot is the volume of water it would take to cover an area of 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot.
“We need to make sure the reservoirs are still managing the flow,” he said. “We know rivers are at a higher (flood) stage downstream, but it will be less than what was experienced earlier this spring in March events.”