Residents of Big Lake, Mo., wait for floodwaters
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
BIG LAKE, Mo. (AP) — Most residents of the northwest Missouri village of Big Lake have evacuated their homes as levee breaks on the Missouri River move south, and some who remain are dealing with a mix of stress and anger over what they say is mismanagement of the river by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
When the floodwaters do come, possibly in the next few days, it will be the third time in the last five years that properties near the lake have been deluged by overflow from the river.
Juli Crenshaw, a 47-year-old information technology manager for Energizer Batteries in Maryville, has lived in Big Lake for most of her life. She said residents used to figure they'd see a big flood once every eight to 10 years, but lately that's changed.
"Every eight to 10 years, you can live with that because, well, look at what you're seeing," she said, pointing from her home's raised back deck toward the lake, which on Tuesday had come up to the top of a boat dock near her backyard. "We figure every 10 years it's time to weed out the basement, anyway. You clean out and throw stuff you don't want out. You get ready for a flood, it goes away and you replant grass. Doing that every couple years, or every year, gets monotonous."
She and her husband, Steve, place the blame for repeated flooding on the Corps of Engineers, which they say doesn't pay enough attention to what's going on upriver so they can begin releasing water from northern dams earlier in the year.
"It's always a constant fight over the years between the northern states above the dams and the southern states below them," Steve Crenshaw said. "They built the dams for flood control and navigation. They're not operating it that way now. They keep the reservoirs up there basically as full as possible so they have a good recreational time for their summer."
Criticism of the corps' handling of the Missouri river has been ratcheted up in the past week, with governors of several states, including Iowa's Terry Branstad, and various congressional delegations complaining that something should have been done to prevent the widespread flooding.
The corps has responded that heavy rainfall last month in the usually dry state of Wyoming is chiefly to blame for the problems downriver.
Messages left with the corps late Tuesday afternoon were not immediately returned.
Exactly one year ago Big Lake residents were forced to evacuate because of flooding from the Missouri River. Juli Crenshaw stayed for four days after nearby levees broke, while Steve Crenshaw made it a week before he had to get out.
Both said they would not go anywhere if they didn't have jobs that they can't get to when the roads around the lake are underwater. They said they will have to move fast to get their vehicles to high ground when the water starts threatening the roads this time.
Four-foot-tall corn lines both sides of the road that runs around Big Lake, all of which is expected to be wiped out when the floodwaters come. A couple miles from the Crenshaws' home, railroad crews were busy Tuesday laying gravel in preparation for raising the railroad tracks above the expected flood.
The Crenshaws are grateful they have someplace else to stay for free, though they say many others aren't so fortunate. And when people are forced to leave their homes and have to pay for alternative housing, their mortgages still come due every month.
"You gotta go to work sooner or later," said Steve Crenshaw, an aircraft maintenance supervisor at Rosencrans Air National Guard base near St. Joseph. "Can't just sit around here and do nothing."