A sigh of relief — for now

Last week’s spike in water levels at the Missouri River raised the eyebrows of area farmers, city employees and others who have a stake in keeping the river confined to its boundaries.

After heavy rains early Thursday morning, the National Weather Service predicted Jefferson City’s river level would rise from about 11 feet then to around 29 feet today.

City public works employees scrambled to meet about potential flooding, and some area farmers said they kept a nervous eye on the forecast.

A revised prediction of a 26.4 crest today never happened. Since Friday, the level has remained fairly level at around 23 feet, and is expected to drop starting on Wednesday. Jefferson City’s flood stage is 23 feet, but area levees protect the north side of the river to about 30 feet.

But the ever-changing predictions in spring keeps some on guard.

“We’re starting to look at what kind of snow we’re having in the mountains and the reservoir level in the northwest,” said Britt Smith, the city’s operations division director. The current scare may have subsided, he said, but the city keeps a close eye on the levels, especially during this time of year.

“We’ll monitor the conditions so that we can get the word out the public if there is any potential flooding coming this spring or summer,” he said.

The city keeps a close eye on rising river levels because the city’s airport and sewage treatment plant are in North Jefferson City. A few residents still remain there after the floods of 1993 and 1995.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. spring flood risk map puts Jefferson City near the edge of “mild” and “Moderate” risk.

“The melting of late-season snow may cause minor to moderate flooding in the upper Mississippi River basin, including southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Missouri,” NOAA says on its website.

Last week’s jump in the river level also concerned farmers. Jay Fischer farms on the north side of the Missouri River not far from the Capitol, raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, watermelons and pumpkins. He said that if the river got to the initial projection of 29 feet, that’s when he would begin sandbagging in the area.

Weather patterns, he said, are becoming more and more unpredictable.

“It just seems like in the last five or six years, there’s not what you would call ‘normal’ to a growing season or to a spring for sure,” he said. “Our seasons are just really strange from one year to the next.”

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