Mid-Missouri farmers prepare for potential flooding
‘I’m trying to think positive’
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Farmers along the Missouri River have spent the latter part of this week preparing for potential flooding, particularly if another deluge nails Mid-Missouri this weekend.
According to a forecast issued by the National Weather Service on Friday morning, the Missouri River is expected to crest at 30.0 feet by noon Sunday. At 8 p.m. Friday, the Missouri River was at 27.84 feet. In comparison, minor flood stage is considered 23 feet; moderate flood state is 25 feet and major flood stage is 30 feet.
Jay Fischer, who farms in the north Jefferson City river bottom, has spent the past few days examining the levees for low places created by groundhog and coyote dens.
Fischer said he and his workers know they’ll have to block Renz Farm Road bridge over Turkey Creek, near old Cedar City. To prevent fields in the area from being flooded, the deck of that bridge has to be blocked if the river rises above 27 feet.
“We’re working on sandbags ... to make a dam across the road,” Fischer said.
He plans to continue to monitor the levees throughout the night and will likely block the bridge this morning.
Fischer said his farm withstood river levels of 30.6 feet in 2003; he expects it can do it again.
“If we don’t get a ton of rain (Friday night),” he said.
“I never thought we’d be at this point two weeks ago,” he lamented. “It just seems to get worse every year as we swing from one extreme to another. But I’m trying to think positive.”
David Troth, who farms in the Claysville bottom south of Hartsburg, already has hauled in two truck loads of sand in anticipation of a sandbagging effort. By mid-day Friday, he was on a hunt for sandbags. He’d already called the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s office and the State Emergency Management Agency. Troth said he’d been able to locate tube sand — which is too expensive — but no empty bags.
“Apparently we can get them from the Corps of Engineers in Glasgow,” he said.
Like Fischer, Troth has spent the past few days examining his levees for weak spots.
“If a low place has settled, it’s worth it to put 100 sandbags there,” he said.
The road to Troth’s farm floods at 27 feet, so he has already evacuated his equipment out of the river’s path. Only irrigation equipment remains in the way.
“It’s part of the way things go around here,” he said.
Kelly Forck, who farms in the Cole Junction bottom and several other locations near Jefferson City, has not yet evacuated his farming equipment to higher ground, but he has pre-positioned several pumps and checked numerous back-flow devices on drainage pipes.
“We’re just getting ready for a potential sandbagging effort,” Forck said.
Forck said it may soon be necessary to start laying bags along the Union Pacific railroad tracks, if and when high water forces the railroad to halt train traffic. The railroad tracks, the Cedar City levee at the U.S. 63 bridge and the Capitol View levee south of Jefferson City Memorial airport all overtop at 31 feet.
“But hopefully it doesn’t get that high,” he said.
Forck believes his farm can sustain river levels of 32 feet. “That’s probably when the lowest areas start to become subject to flooding,” he said.
All the farmers said they were trying to remain positive in response to this week’s worsening weather patterns.
As the situation stands now, it doesn’t appear any levees will definitely be breached.
“We have things to worry about,” Forck said. “But I’d say we’re comfortably nervous.”
Forck noted National Weather Service predictions take into account past precipitation and the precipitation amounts expected approximately 24 hours into the future. He also noted, historically, crest predictions tend to be conservative, meaning the river doesn’t rise quite as high as engineers originally forecast.
“It causes us to be a little more ready, which is a good thing,” he added.
José Cruz, who farms between Steedman and Jefferson City, already has started pumping water off of the fields in an effort to save his crops.
He’s hopeful the National Weather Service’s predictions are accurate, because he feels the levees around his farms can hold back water up to 31.5 feet.
“But if we get a lot of internal rain, it’s going to take it to a whole new level,” he said.
Cruz said it’s a shame so much water has fallen in the past few weeks.
“We have all of our corn planted and a lot of our beans in. They were some of the best-looking crops we’ve seen in a long time,” he lamented.
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