Missouri River causes new problems in areas levees broke

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri River is causing new problems in a flood-battered part of northwest Missouri where the river broke through levees in March.

The rain-swollen waterway has again inundated the tiny village of Big Lake in Holt County, where some of its approximately 160 residents were beginning to clean up after the last deluge.

Water levels haven't dropped enough to fix the failed earthen levees intended to protect the area, Holt County emergency management director Tom Bullock said Friday. That means even moderate rises in river levels can cause problems. He calls it "a continuous mess."

Several roads in the region are closed again, including portions of U.S. 159 and U.S. 59 in Missouri near the Missouri River.

In eastern Missouri, water levels are falling along the Mississippi River after some levees were busted.

Northwestern Missouri's new troubles come just as some areas were showing signs of improvement. A stretch of the Kansas Turnpike near the Oklahoma border has reopened, as has the Iowa Highway 2 approach to a Missouri River bridge that links southwest Iowa to southeast Nebraska.

The Kansas Turnpike section near Wellington, which is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Wichita, flooded Wednesday when up to 10 inches (254 millimeters) of rain fell across parts of the state in just 24 hours. Flooding also forced evacuations and school closures.

In Mississippi, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said Friday that they were days away from closing a floodgate because of the renewed rise of the Mississippi River. Officials issued predictions that a flood inside a region walled off by levees will set a new record once the floodgate is closed.

That lingering flood, which has been going on since February, makes it unlikely that farmers will plant any summer crops on hundreds of thousands of acres in the south end of Mississippi's Delta region. It has renewed calls for a once-promised system of pumps to drain the region that were vetoed because of predicted environmental harms to wetlands inside the basin, known as the Yazoo backwater.

Officials opened a floodgate at Steele Bayou north of Vicksburg on April 1 after six weeks of closure. Water fell for a time but began to rise again because of heavy rainfall. Now a rising Mississippi River means the gate will have to be closed again to prevent even worse flooding inside the backwater, even as heavy rains move down inland rivers toward their only outlet at Steele Bayou.

The Corps now predicts a crest higher than the peak earlier this year. That was the worst flooding since 1973.

"It's been a weird, weird, weird year," said Peter Nimrod, chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board.

More rain could make flooding worse in Mississippi and other parts of the Deep South. The National Weather Service says millions of people are in the path of potentially dangerous weather this weekend. The Storm Prediction Center says there's a marginal risk of severe storms from eastern Texas — where parts of Houston have already seen flooding this week — to South Carolina and western North Carolina.

Forecasters say wind damage and hail could be seen in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday. On Sunday, there's a chance of storms across central Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

In Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a major spillway Friday, four days earlier than expected due to torrential rains that saw the Mississippi River rise 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) in the past 24 hours. Officials said opening the Bonnet Carré (BAH-nee KEHR-ee) Spillway relieves stress on New Orleans levees.

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