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Guard, local communites discuss flood plans

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon addresses concerns about potential flooding, as Missouri Adjutant General Stephen Danner looks on at a news conference in St. Joseph, Mo., June 2, 2011. The Missouri river is threatening to escape from its banks as citizens in the Northwest Missouri region brace for the possible flood. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Shannon Bond)

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon addresses concerns about potential flooding, as Missouri Adjutant General Stephen Danner looks on at a news conference in St. Joseph, Mo., June 2, 2011. The Missouri river is threatening to escape from its banks as citizens in the Northwest Missouri region brace for the possible flood. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Shannon Bond)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Col. Mike Pankau welcomed city officials to the 139th Air National Guard base, here at Rosecrans Memorial Airport May 31.

The 139th hosted a teleconference with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to discuss flood preparation and impact associated with the rising waters.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would begin raising water release at Gavin's Point Dam from the 1997 record of 70,000 to a record-breaking 150,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) by mid-June through December. This will affect lakes and rivers from Omaha to Kansas City to rise.

"This release is slightly more than double from last year," said Joel Uhler, Attorney for Elwood levee board. "We will be dealing with 43 million acre feet this year compared to the previous 20 million acre feet of last year," said Uhler.

The flooding is being caused by the runoff from the melting snow pack in the Wyoming and Montana area, along with record local precipitation.

The runoff caused the flood storage in the Missouri lakes to fill up and decreased the river's ability to capture and maintain water levels, necessitating the record-breaking release.

Currently, no levees have been breached, however water has begun running over the road in Craig, MO, west of Big Lake.

Sandbagging efforts in St. Joseph, Holt and Buchanan County are expected to begin by week's end. While thousands of sandbags are on hand, several more thousand have been ordered. Sand bag filling machines are on hand to assist in expediting the process.

In preparation, the men and women of the 139th are ready and able to assist.
"We have a plan in place but are cautious and optimistic that we will not have to execute our plan," said Col. Mike Pankau, 139th Airlift Wing commander.

Currently, the 139th has four phases of evacuation beginning with phase one with the river level being at 26 feet and rising.

"At 32 feet and higher, levees will have been breached and the base evacuated with the exception of a minimal security presence," said Lt. Col. Grace Link, 139th civil engineer commander.

The Missouri River level was at 21.95 feet in St. Joseph Tuesday. River levels are expected to stay between 21 and 22 feet through the week.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers urges that interested public should call the Emergency Operations Center at (816)426-6320 for questions and additional information.