Varying forecasts for flooding along the Missouri River here is making it difficult for local officials to know what to expect.
“It’s been raining everywhere,” Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said, noting that over the past year, the area has seen a significant amount of rain.
“Out west, they’ve had a lot of rain and snow melt and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has held back the water to a point where they can’t hold it back anymore,” Griesheimer said.
“They’re going to release the impoundments in record amounts. That will have significant impact on all the communities down the river, all the way to St. Louis, and further down the Mississippi,” he said.
Washington city officials have been monitoring river projections provided by the National Weather Service (NWS), the Corps of Engineers and the State Emergency Management Agency.
“Right now, we are fluctuating between 23 and 32 feet,” City Administrator Jim Briggs said of expected flooding at Washington. Flood stage is 20 feet here.
However, Griesheimer said current estimates don’t provide any certainty.
“We don’t know how high it is going to rise. If it is on the low end, we’ll be fine. If it is on the high end, we’re in trouble,” he said.
As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, the river was at 18.7 feet and the NWS projects the river stage to drop to around 18 feet by Sunday at Washington.
If flooding were to occur, Briggs said at 23 feet, “it’s more of a nuisance,” but as the river rises, more parts of the city and areas in Warren County will be affected.
“At around 24 feet, it will start to close parts of the riverfront trail,” Briggs said. “At 27 feet, while it won’t affect Washington directly, parts of Augusta Bottom Road and Highway 47 might close so people need to be aware of that.
“Once you get to 30 feet and above, you start to see damage in the airport administration building,” Briggs said.
In preparation for flooding, the county has ordered 100,000 sandbags. Of that amount, 50,000 are for Washington, 25,000 are for the county and the remainder will be used for reserves.
The city also has stockpiled sand at three locations on the south side of Busch Creek in case the sand plant near the riverfront becomes inaccessible because of flooding.
Briggs said the city will rely on Bill Halmich, emergency management director, for when sandbags should be placed.
“If he feels it’s necessary, then we’ll do it,” Briggs said.
The city was scheduled to hold meetings with businesses concerned about flooding at 4 p.m. and residents at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at city hall.
Briggs said it will be up to individuals if they want sandbags for their residences or businesses.
Griesheimer said he hopes any impact the river flooding will have can be lessened by being prepared.
The county will do whatever it can to assist affected property owners, he said.
Missourian Staff Writers Paul Hackbarth and Evin Fritschle contributed to this story.