Water from the Mississippi River floods hundreds of square miles of farmland
Heavy rains have caused massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana
Engineers have started a controversial plan to breach a levee to alleviate water pressure
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intends to continue a controversial plan Thursday to breach a levee on the Mississippi River to help stop catastrophic floods in communities in several states.
The group wants to open the final crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee, moving ahead with a plan to blast holes in it to ease unprecedented flood pressure.
The Corps started the blasting Monday. Some who live where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet said it has helped.
The Ohio River level at Cairo, Illinois, has dropped nearly 2 feet since Monday afternoon. Officials said they believe the levels would be up to 3 feet higher now if the levee had not been detonated.
But still Cairo was under a mandatory evacuation order, and six other communities were under voluntary evacuation notices, said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Missouri officials took the Corps to court over the plan to breach the Birds Point-New Madrid levee. The state argued the floodwater would deposit silt on about 130,000 acres, and it would take years, along with millions of dollars, to fix the damage.
Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Corps’ Mississippi River Valley Division, made the decision to order the breach. He warned that without punching a hole in the levee, massive flooding would threaten to inundate communities throughout the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case on Sunday, clearing the way for Walsh to blow the levee.
Despite the plan, many areas were inundated as the Mississippi River spilled out across huge swaths of farmland, creating massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana.
The water was coursing across an area of farmland that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon described as “literally the most productive part of our continent.”
Farmer Bryan Feezor said the sight makes you “sick to your stomach” as he surveyed his submerged fields.
“Farming is all I ever have done … and it’s under water,” he told CNN affiliate KPLR-TV in St. Louis.
The flooding has been triggered by heavy rains, and meteorologists said it is not expected to relent until early June.
More than 20 miles of westbound Interstate 40 in eastern Arkansas were closed due to flooding, state police reported early Thursday.
The closure was between Hazen and Brinkley, according to Lt. Jackie Clark, who said he expects the eastbound lanes to close later Thursday.