Town submerged after levees break
The governor declared a state of emergency.
AGENCY, Mo. (AP) -- Five burst levees along the Missouri River sent a deluge of water that submerged the tiny town of Big Lake on Tuesday, as thousands in the region fled their homes amid warnings that the flooding could near the devastation of 1993.
The levees broke Monday south of Big Lake, and the rush of river water immersed the town Tuesday, said Mark Sitherwood, presiding commissioner of Holt County. Many of the buildings in town had several feet of water inside, said Holt County Clerk Kathy Kunkel.
"The town is a loss. At this time, we don't know, but it looks like that's what's going to happen," he said.
No injuries were reported. Most Big Lake residents evacuated Monday, but a handful had to be rescued by boat Tuesday, Sitherwood said.
Big Lake is about 95 miles northwest of Kansas City and had a population of 127, according to 2000 census reports.
Nearby, the communities of Craig and Fortescue also were being threatened, Sitherwood said.
In Agency, a town of about 100 surrounded on three sides by the Platte River, most had already evacuated. The town was hit hard in 1993 in one of the most costly and devastating floods in U.S. history. That flood claimed 48 lives in the Midwest and caused 18 billion in damage.
By midday Tuesday, a few homes were partially submerged, as were nearby roads and a cemetery.
"It isn't as bad as 1993," said Pauline Gibson, 71, who did not evacuate her trailer home but was packed if she had to leave quickly. "But it's working on it. We don't want it like '93, but they say more rain is coming and that's not good."
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency and mobilized National Guard troops to help. At least 19 Kansas counties declared local disaster emergencies.
"Once we've dealt with the entire flood across the state, we'll begin to evaluate the damage and find out what kind of assistance might be available to compensate or help people impacted by the damage," Blunt said Tuesday at a news conference in St. Joseph.
River towns across much of Missouri were evacuating low-lying areas Tuesday or seeking help filling and stacking sandbags.
"We're scrambling around here," said Steve Mellis, who was volunteering near the central Missouri town of Easley as residents moved boats and equipment to higher ground.
Two-thirds of the town of Mosby, 20 miles northeast of Kansas City, was already under 2 to 4 feet of water from the overflowing Fishing River, said D.C. Rogers, Clay County director of emergency services. He said the town's 242 residents began evacuating Monday morning. By evening, only one route into the community remained open.
Evacuations were voluntary in several western Missouri counties, but a mandatory evacuation was imposed in Parkville, just across the Missouri River from Kansas City, said Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for the governor.
Communities across the central Plains faced flooding from the weekend-long thunderstorms that spawned the deadly tornado that wiped out Greensburg, Kan.
Parts of Missouri, Iowa and Kansas received 4 to 8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service said. In some areas, Tuesday morning was the first time in several days that rain wasn't falling, but runoff was still raising streams and rivers.
Flooding in Oklahoma was blamed for the drowning death of a man whose car was swept off a county road. A Kansas man died when his vehicle overturned in a water-filled ditch near Wichita, Butler County officials said.
Nearly 1,600 people were urged to evacuate the southwest Iowa town of Red Oak on Monday as the Nishnabotna River rose out of its banks.
Levees broke near Willow Creek in the western Iowa town of Missouri Valley, and some residents had to be evacuated by boat Monday, said Mayor Randy McHugh. "Appliances are just floating around," he said Monday.
Authorities rescued about 500 people Monday from flooding around Topeka, Kan., said Dave Bevans, a spokesman for Shawnee County emergency operations. Officials reported similar evacuations in Saline County, about 100 miles to the west, and flooding forced the evacuation of New Cambria, a town of about 150 people northeast of Salina.
Since the 1993 floods in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins, only two or three other flooding episodes have been comparable to what forecasters are predicting in the next several days, weather service meteorologist Andy Bailey said.
There will be differences though. The 1993 flood was caused by melting snow combined with heavy rain over a two-month period. After that, state buyouts of property on flood plains left fewer residences in danger of future floods.
"But make no mistake," Bailey added, "this is a major flood."
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