News that the Mississippi River is forecast to make a dramatic rise came as no surprise Wednesday to Justin Kilby of Hannibal, who was helping his 4-year-old daughter, Breighlan, fish at the marina.
“That seems to be how it works. We have one dry year and then we have a super wet year,” he said. “After last year’s drought I figured we’d have a flood this year.”
Mike Harris of Hannibal was wrapping up a walk in Nipper Park when advised that within a few days such a walk will likely not be possible.
“I hope it doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’m real surprised (it will flood) unless we get the rain they’re forecasting.”
As Harris scanned the park, he suddenly realized that flood preparations had begun.
“Parks and Rec has already taken the trash cans out. I just noticed that,” he said with a smile.
The removal of the trash cans comes in advance of the city’s installation of all five flood gates on Thursday afternoon. John Hark, Hannibal’s emergency management director, made that announcement Wednesday.
“It’s got me scurrying right now,” said Hark. “We will declare a state of emergency reference to flooding and shut the entire riverfront down.”
Hannibal did not have to set any flood gates in 2012. That was the first time no gates were set since the city’s flood wall was completed in 1993.
Projected river crests have been increasing in recent days as more and more rain falls north of Hannibal.
“They said it could go to 17.4 9 (feet) and then they said 18 something. I knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt it was time we pay close attention. We’re just monitoring it constantly right now,” said Hark.
As of Wednesday afternoon the river stood at 16 feet in Hannibal, which is technical flood stage. However by 1 p.m. Saturday the river is slated to reach 24.2 feet. Major flooding begins in Hannibal at 24 feet.
The National Weather Service (NWS) was projecting a crest of 25.3 feet at 7 p.m. Monday.
“There’s no big emergency because 25.3 feet we can handle. Everything we hope will be high and dry on the city side, and everything will be good,” said Hark.
The emergency management director acknowledged that the anticipated crest will represent a significant flood.
“Once you get beyond 25 feet you’re starting to get up there within the top 10, I would say,” said Hark.
According to NWS records, a flood of 25.3 feet will equal the fifth highest crest on record. The river reached that level on Oct. 4, 1986.
Page 2 of 2 - Hannibal saw three floods of 20 feet of more two years ago. The highest crest in 2011 was 23.59 feet on June 17.
Hannibal’s all-time record crest is 31.8 feet set on July 15, 1993.