Mississippi River now forecast to crest this weekend

The rising Mississippi River in Hannibal has city officials and event coordinators changing plans.

Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) implemented its flood prevention preparation plan when the flood crest initially topped 20 feet last week. Crews are preparing city properties that aren’t protected by the flood walls as area event coordinators rush to move their festivities outside of the floodplain.

"In our flood plan, we have action points at 20, 24 and 26 feet," said Heath Hall, general manager of the HBPW, during Monday's meeting of the HBPW Board. "Right now, we are at the hurry-up-and-wait stage. We have some things ready, and with a moment's notice, we can get the rest ready. We're watching it closely every day."

At the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department one of the first orders of business was to prepare the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, which is located outside the floodwall and could be inundated by rising water.

"We are right there on the cusp of it being in the armory. From our standpoint, everything is out of harm's way," said Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, during Thursday night's Hannibal Park Board meeting.

Floodwaters could even impact the April 2 election, because the rec center is used as a Marion County polling place.

Dorian said parks department personnel can get the building ready for use in a short amount of time.

"We have got it down to a science anymore," he said. "If it does get in there, if it is a small flood, we can get in there and in a day get it cleaned up."

Dorian was asked at what point water from Bear Creek, a Mississippi River tributary, could threaten Clemens Field, the home of the Hannibal Hoots of the Prospect League. Dorian said water would begin seeping up through the ground in the outfield before water from Bear Creek  will reach the playing field.

"It will take a pretty good flood to get on the field, probably 26 feet or more," he said.

As of Friday morning the National Weather Service was forecasting a crest of 23.2 feet on Sunday, March 24 in Hannibal.

Aside from the Thursday night recreation center pickleball matches, most other events in the facility have been rescheduled outside of the floodplain.

"It (flood) could not have come at a worse time. We had so many events in there planned," Dorian said.

Boxing matches, scheduled this weekend, will be held in early April. An upcoming job fair has been moved to the American Legion.

It was assumed the riverfront renovation project would be completely shut down when the city installed the floodgates on March 15. However, Dorian said Thursday night that a contractor working on the pilings has been able to continue.

"They are going to continue to work as long as the current allows them to," he said.

It's difficult to predict when the river will drop sufficiently to allow the floodgates to come out and workers to continue work on the riverfront, Dorian said.

"When the river comes up and goes back down, that's great," he said. "But what always worries us is when it plateaus for a long time. It doesn't take much rain to jack that (river) up real fast. We will keep an eye on it. That is all we can do."



danny.henley@courierpost.com