River rushes past 21 feet

With four inches of rain forecast to fall over the next 48 hours in the Jefferson City area, forecasters are warning major flooding could occur on the Missouri River.

On Thursday morning, the forecast from the National Weather Service in St. Louis had the river reaching 24.5 feet by the weekend, but as of Thursday afternoon the forecast jumped to a crest of 29.5 feet.

At 8 p.m., the river stood at 21.95 feet, more than 3 feet higher than Thursday morning’s level.

“We show you getting a bunch of rain Friday and more Saturday, so it could be higher than this,” said hydrologist Mark Fuchs. “We are monitoring this closely. Trying to generate reasonable upstream levels with levees being overtopped and water spreading into farmland and flood plains. It’s difficult to nail down the forecast along the Missouri. We might be on the high side, but we’ll get it adjusted.”

Fuchs said they are also looking at contributions from the Osage River due to backwater effects from releases at Bagnall Dam.

“If they cut back that could help,” he said. “They usually do accommodate flood forecasts with reduced flows, but that depends on how much room they have in their pool.”

Fuchs said these heavy rains are not affecting the upper levels of the river.

Cole County Emergency Management Director Bill Farr said the forecasts show once the system moves out, the river levels should drop fairy quickly.

He said they get updates every day, especially airport officials where they have to think about moving out if the river level tops the flood wall of 30 feet.

“They predict high, so we’ll continue to watch it,” he said. “For now that’s about all we can do.”

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