Missouri River | KCUR

Missouri River

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Near-record precipitation last year has set the stage for renewed flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries, according to a forecast released Thursday.

In 2019, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries raged through towns and farms for months.  Forecaster Kevin Low at the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center said this year could be just as bad.

An advisory group's recommendations to Gov. Mike Parson that state and federal agencies largely focus on repairing and strengthening levees will not do enough to protect communities from floods, environmentalists say.

Parson created the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group last summer after record flooding along the state’s major rivers caused widespread damage to many Missouri communities. The group mostly consists of regulators, levee district representatives and members of agriculture associations.

There are no scientists and conservationists to acknowledge that climate change will worsen floods and promote long-term solutions to prevent flood damage, said Maisah Khan, water policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

The changes in climate that people in the Kansas City region are now experiencing haven't been seen in previous lifetimes.

That's according to Doug Kluck, a regional climate services director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He also spent 18 years with the National Weather Service as a researcher and forecaster.

KCUR recently sat down with Kluck in an effort to provide readers with some perspective on what's happening. Below is the edited version of that conversation.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Dwight Frizzell was a teenager when he realized he could hear the Liberty Bend Bridge singing.

The bridge spans the Missouri River just north of Independence. It's part of Highway 291, which runs above Sugar Creek’s LaBenite Park.

“I heard the rhythm of the traffic — ka-kaw, kla-klock — but then I was also hearing resonances like singing, like harmonics, almost like voices singing in harmony,” says Frizzell, who’s been returning to the site for decades.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

The House has approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid package despite earlier objections from Republicans.

The legislation was approved 354-58. All those who opposed it were Republicans. The Senate already passed the bill overwhelmingly and it heads to the president's desk for his signature.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County, Missouri, officials urged an evacuation of the town of Levasy on Saturday after a levee broke leaving parts of the town under water.

The town of 80 people is about 25 miles east of Kansas City, along the Missouri River.

Segment 1: Reporting on floods

Flooding has been catastrophic outside of Kansas City and covering the damage isn't an easy task. KCUR reporters share perspective on what it's like to wade into these stories.

The Missouri River swamped Scott Olson’s land in March — the second time in the last eight years. Flooding tore holes in his fields and left mounds of debris. He’s not entirely sure he’ll plant corn and soybeans this season on the flooded acres.

Segment 1: Embankments necessary for flood managment can also have adverse affects.

Levees offer a sense of security but little regulation on their construction means they can actually make flooding worse for towns and farmland upriver.  Set-back levees found in Europe allow more room for rivers to run but their cost has slowed adoption of the system in the U.S. 

Facebook / KCUR 89.3

The catastrophic flooding in Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas last month caused more than $12 billion in damage, by one estimate.  But much more is at stake as the flood waters recede.

Small, rural towns are damaged … and dying.

Even communities with a lot going for them have taken a beating. Lynch, Nebraska, for instance, a remote village near the South Dakota line, with only about 200 residents.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Water is still on the mind of many Missourians right about now. As floodwaters crept their way down the Missouri River in recent weeks, questions outnumbered answers about how to best control future inundations.

Major flooding on stretches of the Missouri River from Nebraska and Iowa through Kansas and Missouri resulted in several breached levees and significant damage to cities, towns, and farmland in March. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the threat of even more flooding isn’t over yet.

Farmers along the Missouri River and its tributaries are still assessing damage from recent flooding.

But beyond the farms in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, there’s visible evidence that the impacts are far-reaching and long-lasting — closed interstates and rerouted trains — key cogs in a global agriculture economy.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It will probably be another week before the Missouri River at Parkville, Missouri, is back in its banks. The latest National Weather Service map predicts sometime next Tuesday or Wednesday.

But merchants around the quaint downtown are weathering the flood just fine.

Segment 1: How to run.

It's finally spring and that means sunshine, flowers and people jogging outside. We visit with a local coach to find out how to get "in the zone" about running.

Segment 2, beginning at 12:40: How floods shaped Kansas City.

Segment 1: Response and recovery to flooding in the Midwest.

We hear regional reactions to the devastating flood waters now making their way through Missouri, and learn about the recovery effort and how the Army Corps of Engineers is planning for the possibilty of more flooding this spring.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

The threat of major new flooding on the Missouri River is receding this week, but the stage is set for further disaster as the usual spring flood season dawns in the coming weeks.

Last week's flooding left billions of dollars of destruction in its wake.

“This is just a prelude of what’s to come. I can only remember one other flood in early spring like this,” said Bob Baker, who has been farming in the river bottoms just west of Weston, Missouri, all his life. “I think we’re in for a long summer.”

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 2:53 p.m. Thursday: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency Thursday, following flooding along the Missouri River.

Thursday morning the river breached a levee near Winthrop, Missouri, across from Atchison, Kansas. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Flooding continues along the Missouri River after last week's "bomb cyclone" and ongoing snowmelt, posing a challenge for small towns like Elwood, Kansas. 

Bobby Hall is a city supervisor in Elwood, a small town of around 1,200 people just across the river from St. Joseph, Missouri. With the river at 27 feet Wednesday, and expected to crest at 29 feet Thursday, officials are predicting potentially 5 feet of water for homes and businesses nearby.

Updated at 6:41 a.m. ET Sunday

It's the worst flooding parts of the Midwest have seen in decades, where several states are battling the aftermath of a powerful "bomb cyclone" which swept through the region, bringing blizzard conditions, hurricane-like winds, snow and heavy rain.

At least two people have died in connection to the flooding.

Segment 1: A Kansas City non-profit is advocating for people with rare diseases.

When you have a disease that's common, you can expect a swift diagnosis and a level of understanding from friends and family. But that might not be the case if your condition is rarely seen and little-understood, even by medical professionals. Hear about the obstacles facing patients with rare diseases and their families

David Hawley

Hundreds of steamboats are buried underground along the banks of the Missouri River. We just don’t know where they are. One of them, however, was recently discovered under a cornfield near Malta Bend, Missouri, about 80 miles east of Kansas City.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Twenty-five years after the "Great Flood of 1993," is Kansas City any safer?

The several waterways that weave through Kansas City make a big impact on shaping The Metro. Especially after heavy rains. On this episode, we learn how flooding shaped our city.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

For decades, except for an occasional festival along the banks of the Missouri River, few Kansas Citians had much reason to visit Berkley Riverfront Park. And even if people wanted to visit the park named for former Mayor Richard L. Berkley, it was hard to get there.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

Decades after most of the buildings were dismantled, newspaper articles raved about the beautiful vistas from a hilltop in Clay County: “One of the finest views of Missouri River countryside in all directions that may be found,” the Kansas City Journal wrote in 1941.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.8

Years of effort on the part of local activists and historians to designate the Quindaro ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, as a National Historic Landmark may be entering the final stages.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, along with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, have co-sponsored legislation to give the site the prestigious status. 

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

Courtesy of Port KC

As 410 luxury apartments go up along the riverfront, Port KC wants to rebrand Berkley Park.

CEO Michael Collins says Port KC wants the south bank of the Missouri River to be all of Kansas City’s front yard, not just those who move into the mixed-use development when it opens next year.

How a Congolese sculpture, now on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, inspired one American artist to explore a new style and tap into her own spirituality.

Plus why self-described "adventure artist" Steve Snell set sail on the Missouri River . . . in a cardboard boat.

Guests:

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