Levee breach in southwest Iowa forces mandatory evacuation

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 05, 2011 2:08 PM
Levee breach in southwest Iowa forces mandatory evacuation

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Officials in a rural corner of southwest Iowa ordered residents to evacuate on Sunday after a levee on the flood-swollen Missouri River broke.

Fremont County Emergency Management said a mandatory evacuation was in effect for the areas between Hamburg, Iowa, and the river and that residents need to be out of the area within 24 hours.

The agency also said volunteers were needed immediately to fill sandbags at Hamburg Elementary. No other details of the levee breach were immediately available.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area around Hamburg, a town of about 1,200 near the border with Missouri and Nebraska.

Officials warned the flooding could affect portions of Interstate 29, between mile markers 1 and 10 inside Iowa.

Water levels in the Missouri River, which runs from Montana to Missouri and is a major tributary of the Mississippi, are surging because of flooding caused by heavy spring rains and a melting winter snowpack.

Record snowfall at the Missouri's headwaters this winter and record rainfall this spring have swollen the Mississippi tributary and pushed the dams and reservoirs along it that are designed to control the usual seasonal surge this time of year to their limit.

So to protect them, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been slowly opening up the dams and reservoirs upstream, gradually lifting river water levels downstream. The floodwaters are expected to trouble the region through July.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher and Jerry Norton)