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‘Levees are saturated and the prolonged water against them is dangerous’
Levees 'overwhelmed' as river levels stay high

While slightly receding in St. Joseph, the still-swollen Missouri River will stay above flood stage for the next several months as a high rate of water continues to surge out of reservoirs upstream.

The river level is forecast to inch-down this week below its current level of 26 feet, a height at which the raging river has been holding since last week.

Flood stage in St. Joseph is 17 feet, with moderate flooding impacting areas at 21 feet and major flooding starting at 27 feet.

While the Missouri River’s banks look to stay below the historic crests reached earlier this year, the waterway has persistently stayed above flood stage. With no substantial receding relief in sight, officials fear that more breaches are likely along the river’s waterlogged levee system.

“At some locations we have topped the 1993 rivers levels,” said Tom Waters, president of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association. “It’s starting to look like (the Flood of 1993) more and more as these levees continue to fail.”

Statewide, Waters said, close to 70 levees along the river already have had some sort of structural failure.

“Levees are saturated and the prolonged water against them is dangerous,” he said. “The system is overwhelmed with little hope in site.”

This, as a deluge of water continues to flow into the Missouri from its tributaries and upstream reservoirs.

Late last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that the amount of water being released from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at 75,000 cubic feet (2,124 cubic meters) per second for at least a month, if not longer. That’s rate is roughly equivalent to the amount of water in an Olympic size swimming pool... per second.

“The 75,000 (cubic feet) level is going to be having water above the banks at a number of places for a very long time,” said John Remus, who oversees water management for the reservoirs along the river. “Those areas that have been flooded will continue to be flooded to some degree.”

The Corps maintained it will reassess the amount of water being released into the river, and if there hasn’t been significantly more rain than expected, the amount could be reduced this summer. But it is still likely to remain above average into the fall.

The government agency predicts that 50 million acre-feet of water will flow through the reservoirs along the Missouri River this year. That would be the second-highest total ever, behind only the 61 million acre-feet seen during the massive flooding in 2011.

Meantime, levee repairs have been hindered by the extent of the damage and lingering floodwaters. Keeping the river level high will continue to make it difficult to reach some levees, and more damage may be caused.

“It doesn’t really need to get that high to cause impacts in those areas that have all of these levee breaches that aren’t repaired yet,” said hydrologist Scott Watson. “The 2011 flood lasted several months at a really high level, and you had a lot of levee failures with a lot of it due to just the longevity of the high water.”

Hydrologists measure and compare wet stretches of weather by looking at the overall amount of precipitation that has fallen over a water year, an October-to-October liquid total.

With more than three months to spare in our current water year, Watson said, the region is already at historic precipitation levels, exceeding both 1993 and 2011.

“We are running this period of the water year on record for rainfall across the area,” said Watson, the National Weather Service hydrologist assigned to this region.

Because of the excess amount of precipitation this spring, the Corps held back some water in the upstream dams.

But holding back that water essentially filled up two of the reservoirs — Fort Randall in South Dakota and Oahe, which also is in South Dakota but stretches into North Dakota. Combined with spring rains and melting snow, that forced higher releases from the dams.

The spring flooding that brought a historic crest in St. Joseph was primarily caused by melted snow then heavy rain that fell downstream of the dams, Watson told News-Press NOW.

With no widespread, heavy rain in the forecast this week, the reservoir water will continue to gush into the river upstream.


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How much river water? A massive amount

The entire state of Missouri would nearly be covered with a foot of water if you were to take the water out of the Missouri River that has passed by St. Joseph so far this year.

It’s not surprising to learn we’ve had more water go through St. Joseph compared to last year, but a 202 percent increase dwarfs the 2018 number.

For perspective, this time last year the river would have filled around half of the state’s acreage.

Picture a flat acre of land with one foot of water resting on top of it. Between January 1 and June, 7 of 2018 there were 21.7 million acre-feet of water passing by St. Joseph on the Missouri River.

That’s obviously a big number, but this year we’ve seen double that amount: 43.8 million acre-feet. For comparison purposes, the state of Missouri has 44.8 million acres of land.

Scott Dummer said we’re still vulnerable to flooding going forward. He’s the development and operations hydrologist for the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center.

“Because of the reservoirs in the Mainstem of the Missouri (River) up north in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota still are very high,” Dummer said. “And the soil moisture, I mean, we’ve had a few days of dry weather now, but overall, we’re still in a wet pattern or wet period.”

For a sample size of how much is projected to go through St. Joseph at the end of this year, the Water Protection Office, located at 3500 759 Highway (Stockyards Expressway), keeps track of how much they receive and also the previous years.

“The wastewater treatment plant this year is taking in an average of about 22 million gallons per day, which is about 7 million gallons a day more than what we did last year,” said Chad Hiserote, the assistant superintendent of wastewater treatment. “Last year we averaged just over 15 million gallons a day.”

Using the average gallons received, Hiserote is predicting 9.6 billion gallons of water to be received this year. Last year the facility received 7.2 billion gallons.

The additional water taken in has created some problems for the facility when it comes to the anaerobic digester — a machine that breaks down sewage similar to the way a stomach break down food.

“When you eat food, you digest that food. If you eat mud, you can’t digest the mud,” Hiserote said. “When that mud goes in (the anaerobic digester), you heat it to 100 degrees. It doesn’t get digested. When it comes out, it’s still there. And it’s all that in organics doesn’t get digested yet.”

The Missouri River numbers come from the average daily flow, which are kept by the United States Geological Survey.

The 2018 numbers are official while the 2019 are provisional. The Missouri Basin River Forecast Center aided helped in researching the numbers for this article.


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How to watch out for Lyme disease this tick season

Lyme disease is a progressive disease that has detrimental effects on the joints, brain, and muscles.

Amy Crawford has had Lyme disease for over 20 years after being bitten by a tick in Connecticut.

“I was diagnosed by by Sarah Knorr, a nurse practitioner here in St. Joseph. I went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and I spent three-and-a-half months there,” Crawford said.

Crawford said Lyme disease has affected her both physically and mentally.

“I have neurological Lyme’s, which is in my brain. I have it in my bones, my muscles in my joints. I have a port in my chest where I take anywhere from six to 12 weeks’ worth of high doses of antibiotics and various different medications.”

While there is no cure for Lyme disease, Crawford encourages those affected by Lyme disease to not to give up as she continues her life with her diagnosis.

“I want to live — I don’t want to just survive and I will continue this battle by educating myself and others until there is a cure. It’s horrible and some days you can’t even leave your house and you don’t know the name of your kids or your husband. Days when you can’t walk on your two feet because you have such severe pain, but don’t give up. Be a warrior,” Crawford said.

Where are the ticks?

There are three species of ticks in northwest Missouri, said wildlife management biologist Sean Cleary, who works at the Northwest Regional Conservation Office.

“There is the lone star tick, the dog tick and the deer tick in this area,” he said.

Cleary said ticks likely are to live in diverse vegetative environments.

“Ticks are terrestrial insects, and they’re found in greater numbers where the vegetation is diverse. The more species of tress, grasses, and weeds you’re going to find more ticks, density-wise. In monocultures, like a soybean field, a corn field, mowed lawn, and you’re going to see lower numbers of ticks,” Cleary said.

Flooding does not affect ticks unless they are able to travel on a host.

“In the Missouri River that’s now flooded, if they didn’t catch a ride with a host, a deer, a squirrel, to get out of the water they can’t walk fast or move fast or cover a lot of ground. Their only hope would be to find a dry levee top and maybe crawl up a tree. In floods like this they either get out preferably by host or they would drown,” Cleary said.

To find out more about ticks in this region, you can visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website online at mdc.mo.gov

Staying safe around ticks

Scott Folk, an infectious diseases doctor at Mosaic Life Care, said Lyme disease is infectious and can occur in multiple phases.

“Lyme disease occurs in phases, on average, about seven to 14 days after the infected tick by 80 percent of people. A rash at the tick bite site doesn’t usually appear within the first few hours. If there’s a rash within the first few hours, that’s more likely to indicate an allergic reaction to some of the proteins in the saliva,” Folk said.

There are symptoms to watch for following the first couple of weeks after a bite.

“Things like fatigue, headache, achy muscles, flu like symptoms, fevers, meningitis, cardiac or neurologic manifestations are all things to look for,” Folk said.

The best way to prevent contracting Lyme disease is doing tick checks every time you go inside.

“We religiously treat our clothing and check ourselves whenever we get out of the woods,” said Clearly.

To learn more about Lyme disease by visiting mayoclinic.org


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Current law gives visa holders gun access

It’s not known how the suspect in the I-35 shooting last month obtained a gun, but quirks in Missouri law do allow non-U.S.-citizens to purchase firearms with a specific type of license.

According to sergeant Jake Angle with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the suspect, Julian Santiago-Cruz, was a Mexican National in the country on visa. Angle did not confirm which type of visa, or how long Santiago-Cruz had been in the U.S., though he is 26 years old.

“The federal gun law says that someone who is visiting the United States temporarily cannot possess a firearm,” said Kevin Jamison, a lawyer from Missouri who specializes in gun law. “There are some exceptions. It’s possible for someone on a temporary visa to get a non-resident hunting license.”

According to U.S. Code, those exceptions are, “a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives of a foreign government, or a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business.”

Jamison added that current law does not limit which type of firearms can be purchased with a non-resident hunting license.

“Some students from countries where guns are rarely possessed have gotten these hunting licenses and gone out and bought a gun that isn’t probably appropriate for hunting,” he said. “They just wanted to have a gun and shoot one because they can’t back in their home country.”

It’s possible Santiago-Cruz was in the U.S. on a permanent basis, more commonly referred to as a green card. According to John Ham, the public information officer for the Kansas City Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, permanent residents can purchase weapons the same way that state residents can.

”The possessor of a ‘green card’ is a permanent resident and not in non-immigrant (temporary) status,” he said in an email.

“You go to the gun shop, you pick out the gun and a you pay for it,” Jamison said. “They run your background check through the FBI and everything comes up clear you take the gun home.”

{p dir=”ltr”}Angle did not say whether or not Santiago-Cruz purchased the gun legally. Ulises Rdz-Quintanilla, an official with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City, said the consulate is aware of the case but is waiting for more information from the Highway Patrol before taking any action.

“The Consulate of Mexico is following this case very closely,” he said. “The Consulate of Mexico is currently facilitating the respective institutional assistance to family members of the deceased.”

News-Press NOW has requested Santiago-Cruz’s immigration status from federal authorities.

No federal law enforcement agencies were involved in the I-35 shooting investigation, according to Angle. He added that the Highway Patrol’s division of Drug and Crime Control is continuing to investigate, and that no other department’s have ever been in charge of the investigation.


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