FILE – In this June 14, 2011 file photo, the Fort Calhoun nuclear power station, in Fort Calhoun, Neb., is surrounded by flood waters from the Missouri River. The pictures of a Nebraska nuclear power plant were startling: Floodwaters from the swollen Missouri River had risen nearly to the reactor building, with the potential to climb even higher. Coming only a few months after Japan’s nuclear disaster, the Associated Press images alarmed many people who saw them earlier this week. But nuclear regulators and the utility that runs the Fort Calhoun reactor say there is little cause for immediate concern.
– Floodwaters might hit KC by midweek (Kansas City Star, June 17, 2011):
Forecasts now say a peak wave of floodwaters from the Missouri River won’t hit the Kansas City area until roughly Wednesday.
But another forecast has drawn concern from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Heavy rainfall expected over the Dakotas in coming days, combined with rains from the past few weeks, have officials worried they’re running out of space in upstream dams, potentially forcing them to release even more pent-up water downstream.
“We’re watching the forecast every day,” said Jody Farhat, chief of the Army Corps’ Missouri River Basin water management division. “We’re a few days out before we have to make decisions.”
Army Corps officials are using a complex system of dams and levees to stop some water here, release a little there, tensely twiddling the knobs of the Missouri River in an effort to prevent as much flooding as possible.
The river, and the huge basin that feeds it, is a complicated machine where everything is variable: water levels that swell from bursts of rainfall, levees that break unexpectedly and an interconnected series of dams that shoot billions of gallons of water downstream.
One of the Army Corps’ biggest tools is the Gavins Point Dam, the last stop for the Missouri River in South Dakota, which will blast out a record 150,000 cubic feet of water per second through at least mid-August.
Officials now think they might have to boost the amount to 160,000 cubic feet, saying they’re running out of options to manage all the water upstream.
“At this point, we have very little flexibility remaining,” Farhat said.
The endless complexities have made prediction a tough task, said Ross Wolford, a hydrologist working long days for the National Weather Service in order to try to predict the river’s flow.
“We don’t have, nor does the Corps or anyone else have, a hydraulic model of what the river’s going to do,” Wolford said. “There’s a lot of art in the way we estimate.”
Hence the new midweek arrival date for floodwaters in Kansas City.
“It’s really a guesstimate right now,” said Tom Waters, chairman of the Missouri Levee & Drainage District Association. “Two or three weeks ago, they would’ve said the water would have been here late this week, early next week.”
“It didn’t go away. It’s still coming.”