HAMBURG, Iowa — Missouri River floodwaters were about one-quarter mile Wednesday morning from the temporary earthen levee that is the only barrier now protecting Hamburg.
Mike Crecelius, emergency management director for Fremont County, said the water that broke through Levee-575 on Monday, about five miles from Hamburg, has crossed Iowa Highway 333 and is filling a drainage ditch on the south side of town.
Crecelius said he believes the temporary levee — built to a height of about 8 feet — can keep the southwestern Iowa town of 1,200 dry.
Crews working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers piled about three feet of extra dirt atop the temporary levee by Tuesday evening and wrapped the entire levee in plastic.
If the temporary levee fails, the southern portion of Hamburg could be covered by as much as 10 feet of water within days, officials have said.
Hamburg Fire Chief Dan Sturm said only seven of the 40 households in the southern part of Hamburg have not been evacuated. The remaining residents are poised to escape quickly if water floods the town, he said.
“We think the new levee will hold,” Sturm said. “But there are no guarantees of anything in this situation.”
Even though the levee breach was downstream, the floodwaters were flowing north and filling the area around Hamburg because the town sits in a valley. The fire chief compared the geography to a slowly filling bathtub.
The river has been rising steadily for weeks as the Corps of Engineers increased the amount of water being dumped from dams upstream to clear out heavy spring rain and snowmelt.
Releases at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota hit the planned maximum of 150,000 cubic feet of water per second on Tuesday.
Mike Nenneman, a farmer from Sidney, was waiting for the flood to swamp a 360-acre tract of corn and soybeans he owns in far southwest Iowa. He said he hopes to break even, with $700 per acre in crop insurance to offset his losses.
“We are the drain of southwest Iowa,” Nenneman said, gesturing to the Missouri River to the west and the Nishnabotna River to the east. “We take all the water from everywhere.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Video: More of I-29 closes due to flood waters
Video: Hamburg area from the air
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