By Karen Dillon
ST. JOSEPH, MB (Reuters) – Record floodwaters that swamped vast tracts of Nebraska and Iowa farmland along America's longest river reached a new peak on Friday in the United States. waterfront city of St. Joseph, Missouri, causing thousands of chaotic evacuations.
The sirens of emergency resounding as the Missouri River climbed to the top of a three-storey dike wall at St. Joseph, about 88 km north of Kansas City, Missouri, the sheriff's deputies were rushed from door to door urging the inhabitants to flee to the heights.
About 1,500 residents and some 6,000 nearby business employees were taken out of the south of the city, a city official said. Most of the evacuated dwellings consisted of caravans spread between industrial facilities, warehouses and a stockyard along a stretch of river edge known as "The Bottoms".
Many people seemed stunned as they rushed out of their homes with tons of hastily collected goods and put them in their vehicles before joining a steady stream of cars, vans, SUVs and trucks. of semi-trailers.
The sudden evacuation, which took place when the river rose to about 9 feet above the flood level, appeared to take authorities and residents by surprise.
"We have nowhere else to go, it's overwhelming," said 70-year-old Linda Roberts, while she and her husband, John, 66, packed their SUVs, their dogs seated with concern in a carrier. of domestic animals.
The police doing their best to steer traffic in traffic jams and helicopters shuddering above the head, dust from cluttered roadways for hours, mixed with the smell of livestock and chemicals, while The mass exodus continued in slow motion.
CRESTING IN THE CITY OF KANSAS
St. Jo Frontier Casino, located about 5 km to the north, was already surrounded by water and the roads along the river were submerged, officials said.
The flood should reach the cities of Kansas, Atchison and Leavenworth, about 35 km downstream, Saturday, and the city of Kansas City on Sunday, officials said.
Floods in the Missouri River were triggered by last week's "cyclone bombing" storm, which killed at least four people in Nebraska and Iowa, leaving a man missing under the Spencer Dam dam , which collapsed, and which caused damage estimated at $ 1.5 billion.
Torrential downpours on hundreds of square kilometers of slush produced record volumes of runoff that spilled into Missouri, just above the Gavins Point Dam, where the river separates Nebraska from South Dakota , about 400 kilometers upstream from Kansas City. The dam is operated by the Corps of Engineers of the US Army.
The waters that have entered the reservoir since this storm have been the most measured since records began 120 years ago, said John Remus, Water Resources Manager for the Missouri River Basin. in the army corps. Downstream flow also broke flood phase records at three locations along the river.
Farmers in Nebraska dug out flooded fields and clashed with highways cut on Friday.
"The biggest problem at the present time is transportation .We are right between Wolf and Cedar River, and transportation is almost impossible," said Ryan Sonderup, 36, of Fullerton, in Nebraska, who has worked in the agricultural sector for 18 years.
Officials in Atchison, Kansas, were watching the flood monitors closely on Friday.
"Most of the time, the city of Atchison is much luckier than some of the other communities located along the Missouri," Justin Pregont, deputy city director, told Reuters. However, floodwaters threatened a handful of properties and roads along the river with a population of 10,000, he said.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared an emergency on Wednesday as high water caused forced evacuations from several small farming communities in the northwestern part of the state.
President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Nebraska, providing for the granting of federal funding in nine counties that suffered the consequences of the floods last week.
The threat of widespread floods persists throughout the region and could worsen in the coming weeks with additional rainfall and snowmelt, NOAA (National Oceanic Administration and National Oceanic Administration) said on Thursday. of the atmosphere).
"This announces itself as a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk," said Ed Clark, director of the NOAA National Water Center in Tuscaloosa. , Alabama, in the agency's Spring Prospects.
(Karen Dillon Report, Steve Gorman's Additional Writing and Reporting, edited by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)