- Posted June 9, 2011 by
South Sioux City, Nebraska
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Missouri River hits flood stage as South Sioux City fights to survive
- jmsaba, CNN iReport producer
In just one week, South Sioux City is much better prepared for the rising waters of the Missouri River.
Monday morning the Missouri River at South Sioux City officially broke flood stage at a depth of 30 feet. Just a week ago city leaders warned residents to prepare for the worst and they distributed Corps of Engineers maps showing about half the city would be underwater.
Those maps indicated what the “flood zone” would look like if nothing was done.
Well the people of South Sioux City formed into an army with shovels and bags as their weapons. Bulldozers and large sand trucks filled the neighborhoods - building sand walls around homes and constructing a total of seven levees over the past week.
Everyone hopes this will make the difference as a projected two-month long super flood is about to hit this community.
The seven levees built by the Corps of Engineers (via a hired contractor M.E. Collins) are completed along the city’s northwest border with the river across low-lying areas. Two of the levees are built on the eastern side of the city to protect the neighborhood.
The tall berms are made of dirt covered in plastic as the water is expected to be at 34.4 feet in depth by June 11, according to the Corps of Engineers website.
The levees are built to provide a two ring protection line around most of the city.
Tuesday members of the Corps of Engineers drove on top of the levees during their final inspection tour and approved their construction.
One of the levees is constructed down the middle of West Third Street and cuts off several homes built next to the river on the north side of the street.
As sand bag walls of those homes are already fighting against the rising river, there is no hope of the levee saving them and they are cut off from access by the tall levee.
“I am feeling very good,” said South Sioux City administrator Lance Hedquist. “I think the plans have fallen into place and things are progressing very well. The new levees are certainly ahead of schedule. As soon as the first levee is done we will start the second levee. That is being put together today (Monday).”
Hedquist said the construction of the second barrier also began Wednesday morning.
“I think they are doing very well and they are ahead of schedule and things are going very smoothly,” he said adding one of the problems crews are having in the construction zone are local “sightseers” getting in the way.
The city’s top manager said he is confident in both the height (an elevation of 1097 to 1097.5 feet according to one of the contractors at the scene) and the construction of the levees.
Hedquist said on West Third Street, “there is just no room to put it (a levee) next to the river. Everyone knows that down there. We are saving as many places as we possibly can. I have talked to most everyone down there and we have done what we can for them,” Hedquist said.
One of the levees on the east side of the city in Scenic Park is constructed out of Styrofoam and filled with sand. It is the creation of LiteForm Technologies, a local South Sioux City company. The new-style levee is quick to build and remove but it remains untested as it was invented as a result of this flood.
“That should withstand the water,” Hedquist said.
The city has also used LiteForm’s similar concrete forms to build huge concrete bathtub-like retaining walls around the city’s water wells and its’ sewage pumping station in Scenic Park, next to the river. As of Wednesday, water was already climbing one of the walls of the sewage pumping station.
If the city lost their fresh water wells or the ability to pump raw sewage under the river to Sioux City, Iowa life could become unbearable for those trying to survive behind the levees.
Hedquist said several things need to be cleared up on the rumor mill circulating across the community and even in the media.
“The map you printed in the paper wasn’t correct,” he said even though his office provided the “official” Corps of Engineers map to the media. The city also used the same maps in their public meeting over the past week.
The confusion lies in the fact that the Corps inundation map represented what would be underwater if nothing was done to save South Sioux City.
He said one reporter said progress on the levees was only 15 percent completed when it was 50 percent finished.
“Someone told the press that 50 percent of the town will be inundated with water. The rumor mills are just really hurting us. We need to make sure that people are getting accurate information. We now have a frontline protection and we will have a second line protection. I think we have water service covered as long as everything the Corps has told us is correct,” he said.
Except for the construction of the levees, everything being done in South Sioux City is being performed and paid for with volunteer and city funds and personnel. Hedquist said no one can even estimate how much flood preparations have cost the city at this point.
“Right now we have to protect the city, whether we get the money back or not. Protecting the community is the number one goal,” Hedquist said.