Levee breach closes Fort Leavenworth airport - KCTV5

Levee breach closes Fort Leavenworth airport

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Rising floodwaters have breached a Missouri River levee near the Fort Leavenworth airport.

U.S. Army spokeswoman Rebecca Steed confirmed to KCTV5.com Thursday morning that the airport is now closed because of the rising river.

Floodwaters on Wednesday undercut the Union Pacific Railroad tracks northwest of the Sherman Army Airfield, which is used by both civilians and the U.S. Army. The military had attempted to reinforce the levee, Steed said Wednesday.

In a news release issued Wednesday, Steed said that the airport is the only area of Fort Leavenworth vulnerable to flooding. She said water has reached the hangars, but all salvageable equipment and property were relocated over the past several weeks in anticipation of rising river levels.

The breech has reached 17 feet wide and two feet deep. Estimated cost of damage is unknown at this time, according to the news release.

Officials are closely monitoring the levels, but don't know yet how high the waters will rise.

Army officials did not respond to phone calls and emails about whether the airport is officially closed or not.

Joining the U.S. Army in monitoring the floodwaters are residents who live along the river.

In Elwood, the Kansas National Guard estimates that already about a quarter of the town's 1,200 residents have voluntarily packed up. The Guard is protecting the town from looters.

"We're not sure if it will flood. It's just bad waiting," said Elwood resident Tanner Davis.

Residents said they have to take the time to pack up and move their belongings knowing it may not even be needed and then face the work of bringing items back once the waters recede.

The city of Wathena, KS, is advising residents to voluntarily leave.

One resident told KCTV5's Eric Chaloux that he is already packing up, but hopes he can spend Fourth of July at his home. The man, who declined to be identified, said, "It's hard not know when or if" floodwaters will reach his home.

Wathena Mayor Bob Ryser said officials are constantly monitoring the river levels.

"I don't want to jump the gun on mandatory evacuations," he said. "I don't want to force people out of their homes . . . . if the river goes down and it is not an issue."

The latest projects keep the water levels below the threshold requiring a mandatory evacuation, Ryser said.

"We'll make the decision if we have to, but I think we'll be OK for a while," he said.

The level of the river will depend on whether Mother Nature brings more torrential rains or whether states upstream release more floodwaters. And, of course, whether levees hold.

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