OMAHA — The scramble is nearly over to fill thousands of sandbags and construct last-minute levees to heights that have not been needed in decades, but those preparations were only the first round of what is likely to be a summerlong battle against the bloated Missouri River.
Peak flows are expected to arrive early in the week in riverfront communities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska as the Army Corps of Engineers completes a gradual increase of releases from dams upstream. The surge through the lower half of the river this week will expose any weaknesses in the flood protections.
“They’re going to be as prepared as they can be,’’ said John Benson, spokesman for Iowa’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.
The Corps said this summer’s Missouri River flooding could rival the record years of 1952 and 1993 in some places. Tomorrow, officials will increase releases from five of the river’s dams to 150,000 cubic feet of water per second — more than twice the previous record releases.
As a result, the river will rise 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in most of Nebraska and Iowa before moving into Missouri, where it may rise 10 feet above flood stage in several places.