Missouri – Evacuations in St Joseph After River Reaches Record Levels

Flooding along the Missouri River in the USA prompted evacuations in the city of St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Missouri River in the city of St. Joseph reached record levels on 22 March, 2019. Thousands of residents and workers were placed under evacuation orders in areas along the riverfront.

The City of St Joseph said via Social Media: “The City of St. Joseph and Buchanan County are issuing a MANDATORY evacuation of areas behind the L-455 levee system on the Missouri side and the area protected by the R-471/460 levee on the Kansas side.”

The river reached 32.11 feet at 20:00 local time on 22 March, just above the previous highest level of 32.07 feet, a record set in July 1993. River levels have since fallen and evacuations orders for the city of St. Joseph and Buchanan County have been lifted.

Missouri River in the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. Image; NOAA / NWS

Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency in Missouri on 21 March in response to worsening conditions along the Missouri and Mississippi River systems as a result of release from upstream reservoirs, snow melt and excessive rainfall. Governor Parson also activated the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, which allows state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions.

On 20 March, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers rescued several people from homes and three people from a stranded boat in and around the city of Craig in Holt County, where a temporary levee failed. Around a dozen people took refuge from the flooding in a Red Cross shelter in Mound City.

“The rising floodwaters are affecting more Missouri communities and farms, closing more roads and threatening levees, water treatment plants and other critical infrastructure,” Governor Parson said. “We will continue to work closely with our local partners to assess needs and provide resources to help as Missourians continue this flood fight and as we work to assist one another.”

Nebraska and Iowa

Meanwhile record floodwaters that have submerged vast stretches of Nebraska and Iowa since around 13 March, are estimated to have caused over $3 billion in property and financial losses. At least 3 people are thought to have died in the flooding.

Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers used a CH-47 Chinook helicopter with Company B, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion, to secure multiple bales of hay, March 20, 2019, and airdrop them to cattle isolated by historic flooding across the state. The Nebraska National Guard has been supporting the ongoing response in Eastern Nebraska following massive flooding on the state’s river systems which began March 13, 2019 and has caused catastrophic damage to the state’s infrastructure, agriculture and personal property. Credit: Nebraska National Guard photo by Spc. Lisa Crawford)
An aerial view of the flooding at the Camp Ashland, Nebraska on March 17, 2019. The levee to the north of the camp broke and water from the swollen Platte River poured thousands of gallons of water into the low-lying area trapping vehicles on the high ground and damaging buildings. Nebraska has experienced its worst flooding ever; displacing hundreds of people and causing millions of dollars in damages to homes, farmland, and cities. Credit: Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley

Last week President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Nebraska, making federal funding available in nine counties ravaged by last week’s floods. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds requested a presidential disaster declaration for 57 flood-stricken counties in her state late last week.

NOAA forecasters said last week that above-average spring rain and snow will worsen flood conditions until May. Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, according to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook.

Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center, said, “this is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”

This map depicts the locations where there is a greater than 50-percent chance of major, moderate or minor flooding during March through May, 2019. (NOAA)