Massive sandbagging effort, evacuations continue along Missouri River

News

June 10th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Governor Branstad is scheduled to take an aerial tour of the flooding along the Missouri River in western Iowa this afternoon (Friday). Branstad, who will be joined by Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division Administrator Derek Hill, will also meet with officials in Council Bluffs. Volunteers are filling sandbags in several cities to prepare for a drastic increase in flows from the Gavins Point Dam, near Yankton, South Dakota, next week. In Sioux City, Fire Chief Tom Everett says volunteers at the Long Lines Family Rec Center could end up filling half-a-million sandbags.

“That operation at the Long Lines Center is one of the most heartening things to go look at,” Everett said. “I mean, people are working hard in the heat that we had making sandbags for the whole region and Sioux City.” Everett hopes to have the supply of sandbags far outweigh the demand when the heaviest flood waters arrive next week.

“So, if an emergency happens and a levee breaks somewhere, we have the resources to immediately go address it instead of having to fill bags to do so,” Everett said. Levees have been built to protect Sioux City’s water treatment plant, although it is not directly in the flood’s path. Sections of entire Iowa towns could be flooded for months. Mills County Emergency Management spokesperson Sheri Bowen says her office has fielded more than 250 calls from residents with concerns about their homes.

“Over half of those calls have been about how can we relocate? We need a site to put a camper or we need a place to rent. So, we’re providing those resources,” Bowen said. In Mills County, the greatest threat for flooding exists in Pacific Junction and in a rural area between the Missouri River and the Loess Hills.

“A lot of those folks are preparing…they haven’t moved yet, but they have a plan and know what they’re going to do,” Bowen said. The Missouri River in Mills County reached a record height of 35.65 feet in July 1993. The current forecast has the river rising to over 40 feet this year. The Red Cross has set up a 24-hour shelter at the Sidney High School in Fremont County, where some of the worst flooding is expected in and around the town of Hamburg.

(Pat Curtis/Radio Iowa)