River returning to major flood level

Plans to begin removing concrete barriers from Hannibal's downtown flood levee have been put on hold because of a revised flood crest of over 25 feet.

"Until this river shows signs that it is going to cooperate and drain on out, we are not going to do a thing. We are not going to take any chances whatsoever," said John Hark, emergency management director for the city of Hannibal.

With the Mississippi River steadily receding for over a week, there was hope among some city officials that the concrete Jersey barriers could be removed. But the river has steadily rose after dropping to 20.41 feet on May 18 in Hannibal.

The National Weather Service forecasted on May 20 a crest of 22.3 feet for May 21. However, the crest has now been revised upward to 25.3 feet early on Friday, May 24.

The river level late Wednesday morning in America's Hometown was 23.95 feet. The major flood level begins in Hannibal at 24 feet.

Hark is not convinced the river is done rising, with a steady chance of precipitation in the forecast across the Midwest into next week.

"If they get three or four more days of rain it (river crest forecast) will probably change," he said.

A combination of barriers, sandbags and sheets of plastic were used to add an additional 2.5 to 3 feet of protection to the city's downtown flood levee after a crest in excess of 27 feet was forecast earlier this month. The process of fortifying the levee and floodgates began May 2 after a crest of 29 feet was projected.

The river reached a crest of 28.25 feet the afternoon of May 3 in Hannibal. That was one of two crests this spring to break into the top 10 of historic crests seen in Hannibal. The crest of 25.81 feet on March 31 ranks eighth. The 28.25-foot crest ranks fourth.

If the crest of 25.3 feet is realized it would tie the flood level seen Oct. 4, 1986, for 10th on the list of record crests.



danny.henley@courierpost.com