ST. JOSEPH (AP) - Missouri faces several more weeks of potential flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries as high water pushes its way south and east across the state, and recent heavy rain has only compounded the problem, Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday.
"While the waters have not reached the levels at many areas downstream yet as they have upstream, we have record numbers at the top two gauges coming into the state of Missouri," Nixon said during a meeting with officials from the Missouri National Guard, which has been coordinating the state's flood-fighting efforts.
Nixon said the high water levels along the Missouri could lessen by the time the river wends its way down to Kansas City and then heads east to the Illinois border.
"We hope it dissipates. We hope it slows a little bit," Nixon said. "But the bottom line is ... you have an entire system that could rise very quickly, as we have seen in the last 24 hours."
Flooding has been a concern all along the Missouri River for weeks because of massive amounts of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing from upstream reservoirs. The National Weather Service said Monday that there has also been significant recent rainfall in Nebraska, western Iowa and northwestern Missouri. Forecasters said the storms dumped several inches of rain in parts of Missouri, up to six inches in some areas.
The corps had expected the river to remain high at least into August because of heavy spring rains in the upper Plains and substantial Rocky Mountain snowpack melting into the river basin. But forecasts now call for the Missouri River to rise faster because of the recent rain in basins of Chariton and Grand rivers, which flow into the Missouri River, said Scott Watson, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. He said flooding also is anticipated on the Platte River because of the heavy rain.
Bill Brinton, emergency management director for Buchanan County, said the Platte River rose nearly 15 feet in a 12-hour period by early Monday.
"Our levees are still holding, and still strong," Brinton said. "But we have concerns for sure."
The weather service said the Missouri River at St. Joseph was on Monday at about 27 feet, which is 10 feet above flood stage. While the city of St. Joseph hasn't reported any major flooding, the high water overtopped three levees in northwest Missouri on Monday, and three small towns in the region were under voluntary evacuation orders.
In Jefferson City, the National Weather Service expected the Missouri River to rise this week by about 6 feet from its mark Monday morning near the 23-foot flood stage. It was expected to crest at more than 29 feet by Friday, which would put the water nearly to the top of an area levee.