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Army Corps of Engineers Breaches Missouri Levee

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MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

The first portion of the levee at Birds Point has been breached. It happened just after 10 p.m.

It was a quick blast of a series of explosions and then a long booming rumble.

The Birds Point blast was felt at the Wardell, Missouri helicorder. Helicorders are similar to seismographs.

Heartland News is receiving calls from around the Heartland of viewers who felt the blast. Viewers from Campbell, Blodgett, Miner, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri and in Karnak and Wolf Lake, Illinois are just a few of the hundreds who reported feeling shaking from the blast.

Hickman, Kentucky police confirm some damage may be related to the blast at Birds Point levee. A home there had some ground give way after the blast and the people are evacuating the home. Police say there have been three other earlier reports of the ground giving way near homes because of all the water. This one, near a church, is the only one thought to be related to the blast. The Army Corps of Engineers was now en route to check the damage.

The blowing of the levee at Birds Point may be already having an affect on the Ohio River at Cairo. At 10 p.m. (three minutes before the first explosion), the Ohio River at Cairo was at 61.72 feet. At 11 p.m., the river was at 61.29 feet. That's a drop of 5.16 inches. At midnight, it was down to 61.13 feet.

At 1 a.m., the Ohio River at Cairo was 60.98 feet. That's a drop of 8.9 inches since Birds Point levee breech three hours ago.

At 2 a.m. the river was at 60.92 feet.

[See the latest river stages.]

After the first blast, the corps' operations moved to New Madrid to be closer to the second blast in the southern part of the levee.

The Army Corps of Engineers breached the first section of the levee just after 10 p.m. The corps expects to see water flowing into the floodplain area around midnight.

"You seen the line of fire first," said Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore. "Of course, you know, the charges so deep down in the levee. I figured it would be a rumble like that cause it was kinda buried down. It was kinda like a chain reaction. You hear the rumbler go all the way from one end to the other."

The corps will give a five minute horn blast warning and then a one minute warning before the blast.

They will work through the night, breaking another section of the levee in the southern part from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesday. This would be a smaller, outflow breach.

The final execution of the project will be in the upper portion between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Maj. General Michael Walsh, President of the Mississippi River Commission, announced he decided to operate the floodway project at Birds Point - New Madrid Floodway at 5 p.m.

Maj. General Walsh called it a "heart-wrenching" situation.

Breaking the levee means flooding about 133,000 acres of farmland and 100 homes in Mississippi and New Madrid counties.

"Made your heart skip a beat," Sheriff Moore said. "But, if it works and it's for the good then my people and the citizens will make due. We'll, come ahead. They're good people and we'll get through this."

"This is the right time to operate it," Walsh said.

Maj. General Walsh called this flooding unprecedented and historic.

He said boat operators, labors, scientists, engineers, and truck drivers all told him the same thing.

"I never thought I would see the day that the river would reach these levels."

He said public safety was his number one issue in initiating the plan to blow parts of the levee.

"Safety is our number one priority," Walsh said. "And that was the main reason we stood down operations last night during lightning storms."

This breach will create a lake in the floodway in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Around 150 members of the Army Corp of Engineers are working with the Coast Guard.

No civilians will be allowed in the area of the blast.

Some concerns have been made about the main line levee protecting towns. The corps has said they expect that levee to hold.

The Ohio River was at 61.44 at Cairo as of 5 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Gov. Jay Nixon released the following statement regarding the decision by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally breach the Birds Point-New Madrid Levee:

"One week ago, I activated the Missouri National Guard to protect lives and property in southern and southeast Missouri because of forecasts of historic flooding in that region. In recent days, rainfall has exceeded those initial forecasts, and Missourians are coping with record river levels along parts of the Mississippi. Today, more than 760 Citizen-Soldiers of the Missouri National Guard are on the ground in southeast Missouri. In cooperation with state, county and local law enforcement, they have evacuated the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway and continue to provide protection for the property families have left behind. I appreciate the tireless and professional efforts of all men and women of the Missouri National Guard, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local agencies who are working long hours to complete their missions.

"Earlier this evening, Major Gen. Michael Walsh of the Corps of Engineers informed me of his decision to proceed with plans to blow a hole in the levee at Birds Point as soon as possible. This explosion will send a tremendous amount of water through approximately 130,000 acres of farmland in southeast Missouri. The General's hope is that this action will relieve pressure on other parts of the levee system and save lives.

"As we have throughout this historic flooding, the State of Missouri will continue to provide resources and personnel to protect the people of the Bootheel. We have boots on the ground. We are prepared. And southeast Missouri will move forward again.

"I urge Missourians to continue to cooperate fully with state, county and local law enforcement, as they have at every stage of this process. Together, we will ensure that Missouri families stay safe in the coming days. And together, we will recover and rebuild."

Gov. Nixon has toured the flooded region three times, including a personal visit into the floodway Sunday evening. The Governor plans to return to the region (Tuesday) to survey the situation.

Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson released the following statement as well.

"The New Madrid floodway is not a failsafe for the rest of the Mississippi River Basin. The likelihood of dramatic flooding at other points along the river has not been changed by the decision and working in the New Madrid floodway will suffer. We have a long, long road ahead of us. The certain damage to homes, buildings and productive farmland will take years to undo. I have high expectations that the Corps go above and beyond to aid the recovery effort for the people and communities affected by this disaster," Emerson said.

Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call 211. The 211 service number is now available for most areas in Missouri. In areas where the 211 number is not operational, citizens can call 800-427-4626.




Army Corps of Engineers photosSOURCE


Added: May-3-2011 Occurred On: May-2-2011
By: bravo61
In:
Regional News
Tags: Missouri, Army Corps of Engineers, Levee, Flooding, Mississippi River
Location: Missouri, United States (load item map)
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