The portions of the levee protecting a southeast Missouri town from major flooding has been breached and authorities are rescuing stranded residents from homes in the area, officials told FoxNews.com.
Poplar Bluff, which sits on the southeast of Missouri nestled along the Black River, has been inundated with 19 inches of rain in the past four days. The flooding point of this section of the river is 16 feet and the river is currently at 22 feet, Doug Bagby, the city’s manager, told FoxNews.com.
“The amount of rain we had was unprecedented,” he said. “You really can’t prepare for something like this.”
Authorities were aware of the dangers on Monday and advised residents to evacuate about 1,000 homes. However, some residents to the south of the town decided to stay put and are now being rescued.
“The problem with that is it puts more lives in danger,” Sheriff Mark Dobbs said. “We’ve already made a few water rescues and are being called for more.”
Dobbs is overseeing a rescue campaign comprised of 95 National Guard units, local police and fire rescuers. Rescuers are using rafts and small boats to get to the most severely stranded people.
One challenge in the rescue is that the city is not flat, but has varying sea levels. Some homes are perched atop hills while others sit low in a valley.
“We’ve saved people on their homes’ roofs,” Dobbs said.
In 2008 the Birds Point levee on the opposite side of the river breached, so there appears to be recent history of the levee being compromised. But neither Dobbs or Bagby criticized the integrity of the levee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended the state destroy the Birds Point levee to relieve the potential for downstream flooding on the Mississippi River. That plan is opposed by Gov. Jay Nixon who said the move would flood 130,000 acres of farmland and a couple of towns.
A decision is likely to be made by Tuesday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report