As the Missouri River continues to rise across northeast Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts toured the river town of Elwood, Kansas, on Friday, as they expressed concerns about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has handled water releases from dams far upstream.
The U.S. 36 bridge from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Elwood is one of the few remaining places where drivers can still cross the Missouri River. The town has been under a voluntary evacuation order since Monday night, and 300 of the town's 1,200 residents have already left.
"We might have to go," said Elwood resident Bill Barger, who says that he and his wife cleared out most of their furniture a month ago. His home was flooded during the 1993 floods, and now, except for two lounge chairs, a TV and a bed, everything else is packed up.
Barger says that he's better prepared for the flood than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"They should've released the water back in the winter time," said Barger. "That river was down six feet before this all started, it should've been taken care of then, not now."
That was a common sentiment during a town hall meeting featuring Brownback and Roberts on Friday. Brownback has called for a federal investigation into the Corps' management of the Missouri River.
"Let's look back after this is all over, why did this happen and what should be done differently," said Brownback, who did not say whether he believed the Corps mismanaged the floods.
Local residents like Perri Armes say that they wonder if states further upstream are to blame for the downstream floods.
"Are we flooded so those people can have more water? You know for a couple of months can't they conserve water?" asked Armes.
According to a spokesperson for the Corps of Engineers, record-high rainfalls in May and Jume upstream along the Missouri River were to blame.
"Almost a year's supply of rain, it filled up the reservoirs and forced us to to these record releases," said Judy Farhat of the Corps of Engineers.
Although Elwood hasn't flooded yet, Brownback says that the threat has just barely begun.
"Huge amount of water, and it's going to be with us for awhile," said Brownback.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times