Leavenworth prepares for possible record flooding
Representatives from the city of Leavenworth, Leavenworth County Emergency Management Office and Fort Leavenworth are preparing for the potential for record-breaking floods in Leavenworth as early as next week.
A Tuesday afternoon meeting between the three government entities focused on appointing those in charge of monitoring river levels, initiating flood management procedures, evacuating various riverfront buildings and campgrounds, installing storm sewer plugs and various city pumps, securing resources and notifying the public.
A flood warning is currently in effect, with the flood stage at just above 20 feet. Although there is only a chance of rain in the immediate forecast, above-normal snowmelt in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, and the extraordinary rain the past several weeks have caused significant flooding in areas to the north, creating an imminent need to release dams at historic rates.
The National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are predicting a long-range crest in Leavenworth between 27 and 33 feet, which could rival the flood of 1993, the worst flood on record for this area.
As a reference, at 20 feet “Flood Stage”, lowland flooding occurs along the east and west banks of the river. At 22.3 feet, water enters Riverfront Park in Leavenworth and people are instructed to vacate the park. In addition, Second Street at the Waste Water Treatment Plant is closed due to high water. At 23.4 feet, the Hildebrandt Island north of Fort Leavenworth begins to flood and families in this area need to evacuate; and at just over 25 feet water overtops the levee north of Fort Leavenworth, and the city of Leavenworth airport at Sherman Field will flood.
“It’s quite unbelievable that the five highest crest levels have occurred since 1993,” said Michael McDonald, director of Public Works. “Any flood is serious, but especially more so when the forecast levels exceed 27 feet. City staff and residents have responded extremely well to these stressful situations in the past, and I expect that we will again this year.”
In the past month, the upper basin has received a year’s worth of rain and has nearly filled the reservoirs. With the arrival of the 140 percent-of-normal snowpack runoff, all of the reservoirs are expected to reach their maximum levels. Flows from five of the six Missouri River reservoirs are expected to reach a record 110,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The previous high releases were 70,000 cfs in the fall of 1997.
Flooded areas are expected to be inundated for several months and city officials will continue to meet and monitor river levels throughout the season.
“Public safety is our number one concern,” said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, commander of the Northwestern Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. “We are working closely with state and local emergency management teams to identify potential flood areas, provide residents with the most current information and help protect vital public infrastructure.”
As communities along the river experience unprecedented flows out of the Missouri River main stem reservoirs, the Army Corps of Engineers in the Omaha District wants to ensure they are provided with accurate and up-to-date information in a timely fashion and has established a Joint Information Center for Missouri River flooding. The public can email questions to the Joint Information Center at MRJIC@usace.army.mil or call 402-996-3877.
During any flood response activities throughout the basin, the Corps will also provide regular updates directly to the public via Facebook and Twitter (OmahaUSACE). View daily and forecasted reservoir and river information on the Water Management section of the Northwestern Division homepage at www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc. For more local flood and emergency information, visit the City of Leavenworth’s website and check out the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages. They can also contact the Leavenworth County Emergency Management Office at 913-684-0455.