OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - Missouri River floodwaters lapped at a nuclear power plant north of Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday and have cracked more defenses downstream after weeks of sustained pressure on levees running hundreds of miles.
And in Minot, North Dakota’s fourth largest city, the roughly 12,000 displaced residents watched Souris River flooding slowly recede and began to look toward recovery.
Up and down the Missouri River from North Dakota to Missouri, residents on Tuesday said they were just plain tired -- tired of sandbags, tired of water, tired of worrying.
“We’ve just got water. And, it’s not going away,” said Tony Mangan, 50, whose family has lived in the South Dakota river town and capital of Pierre, since 1987. “You sense there is a weariness out there. People are tired.”
Flood defenses have protected downtown Pierre. Griffin Park and Steamboat Park at the river’s edge have flooded, with water running over the amphitheater main stage at Steamboat Park.
Across from Yankton, South Dakota, Don Edwards said he has spent thousands of dollars on sandbags and rock material known as rip-rap to keep his Murdo’s Aten Resort eatery open in Nebraska barely three miles downstream from Gavins Point Dam.
“The river is about 2 feet below the deck,” Edwards said of the restaurant’s wooden deck overlooking the Missouri River. “Normally it’s about 12-15 feet below the deck.”
“If it comes up any more, we are all in trouble.”
Several inches of rain over the weekend caused storm sewer backups in Omaha and across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Some businesses and residents were forced out on the east side of Omaha temporarily.
Federal officials said Tuesday they were adding blankets to bolster 2.1 miles of levee in Council Bluffs where they had found seepage or sand boils on a dozen sections.
At the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station north of Omaha, which has been shut since April for maintenance, officials expect to replace by the end of next week an inflatable barrier that deflated on Sunday sending a rush of water toward the plant. The breach temporarily interrupted some electrical power but emergency generators restored power later that day and there was no threat to sensitive facilities.
Although the plant is surrounded by water, its flood defenses have nearly eight feet of space from current river levels, officials have said.
Record water releases to relieve pressure on six reservoirs from Montana through South Dakota have strained flood defenses and the Missouri River continued to breach levees along the northern Missouri and Kansas border.
About 300 or 400 people have been forced from homes in Winthrop, Missouri, and in nearby Lewis and Clark Village since Monday afternoon because of a 150-foot wide levee breach, said Bill Brinton, Buchanan County emergency management director.
Water was nearly as high as the eaves Tuesday on some year-around and vacation homes at Sugar Lake due to the breach, Britton said. High water closed the Amelia Earhart Bridge over the Missouri River connecting Missouri to Atchison, Kansas.
Downstream, St. Joe Casino and Remington Nature Center in St. Joseph, Missouri, were closed after parking lots flooded.
St. Joseph’s levees have 10 to 15 feet of room above current river levels, Brinton said.
“I feel pretty good about our levees but you never know what’s going to fail or pop,” Brinton said.
In Minot residents were meeting with federal officials and preparing to survey the damage to some 4,100 structures after the Souris River topped a 130-year-old record by nearly four feet.
Only about 375 properties in flooded Minot neighborhoods were covered by flood insurance. It may be weeks before some of the most heavily inundated areas can be surveyed fully.
A few hundred people have stayed in area shelters and many others have stayed with friends, family and neighbors.
The Souris River had receded on Tuesday by just over a foot from its weekend crest in Minot. It is forecast to stay above the 1881 record at Minot through the Fourth of July.
Some 189 people visited with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives at Monday at information centers in Minot, spokesman Ed Conley said in a telephone interview.
About 4,000 families have registered for assistance and FEMA has appropriated about $700,000 of grants so far and many residents were meeting with FEMA on Tuesday, Conley said.
Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri, and David Bailey in Minneapolis