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Area levee districts using automatic sandbagging machine

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Tuesday, July 5, volunteers near Grand Pass use an automatic sandbagging machine brought to the area by the Army Corps of Engineers.
With the Missouri River rising over the weekend and no end in sight, a few Saline County levee districts are taking advantage of a sandbagging machine brought in by the Army Corps of Engineers this week.

A large group of farmers and volunteers gathered near the Saline-Lafayette Levee in the Grand Pass bottoms on Tuesday, July 5, to use the machine. In assembly-line fashion, a large pay loader filled the machine with sand, while volunteers filled the bags, passing them down the line for others to tie and stack on pallets.

"It went very well," said Kelly Thorp of Grand Pass. "We did about 5,200 bags."

As sand is unloaded into the automatic sandbagging machine, volunteers near Grand Pass work in assembly line fashion filling sandbags.
He said about 35 to 40 volunteers from the area worked for approximately 7 hours to fill the bags.

Saline County Presiding Commissioner Tom Stallings helped secure the use of the machine for the county, after working with the Missouri National Guard, FEMA and the corps. He and Northern District Commissioner Norvelle "Brownie" Brown went to watch the machine run on Tuesday.

"The two guys from the corps who brought it said for the first couple hours they ran about 700-750 bags an hour," Stallings said. "People get used to the rhythm of the thing and how to feed it, and keep the sandbags away from it. They were just doing a dandy job."

After the sandbags are filled, they are handed down the line where others tie the bags. They are then loaded onto pallets and hauled to another place for storage.
After using the machine, they now have about 9,000 sandbags in stock, but have already placed about 10,000 on the levee to cover low places.

"We've got water on a few of the bags right now," said Thorp, "Everything is looking pretty good -- it's high -- but the time it is going to be high is an issue."

Over the holiday weekend the crest at Waverly was 30.12 feet. That is now the second highest recorded crest there, breaking the previous second high of 30.1 set on May 8, 2007. The highest crest ever recorded was in the Flood of 1993, when the water rose to 31.15 feet on July 27. The next highest levels recorded were 29.2 feet on June 23, 1999, and 29.04 feet on June 30, 1999. On Wednesday, July 7, the river at Waverly was still at 30.01 feet.

Sandbags are lined up on pallets as they are filled near Grand Pass.
Volunteers at the Malta Bend Levee district were using the machine on Wednesday morning to fill sandbags, after bringing in a large pile of sand on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, volunteers there used all of the sandbags already filled and all the sand on hand, to plug low spots on a private levee, which is close to the top, according to officials there.

At Miami, the fourth highest crest on record was recorded, when the water rose to 28.6 feet on Monday evening, July 4. That broke the fourth highest crest, set last year at 28.5 feet. On Wednesday, July 6, the river at Miami was still at 28.25 feet.

Although the two levees there aren't in danger of overtopping, members of the Saline County Levee District No. 2 said they have placed several sandbags on low spots and animal holes.

"We're okay as far as freeboard on our levees, but we're getting an awful lot of seep water," said levee board member Alan Clements. "We've had to fix a boil or two in the levee. Basically our sandbagging is fixing varmit holes. They are really working on the levees."

With the Corps predicting high river levels through August, the biggest concern for levee districts right now is the high water sitting on the levee for a long period of time.

"They are going to get pretty soaked up. That's a concern anytime a levee has water up against it for two months -- who knows what will happen," he said. "Kind of like that deal up there at Sugartree where its sloughing off."

In the Sugartree Levee District, just north of the Waverly bridge in Carroll County, an active fight is being waged by volunteers and members of the Missouri National Guard.

According to reports from the Corp, they are working closely with the sponsors at the levee to make repairs to a "major slide."

If that levee breaks, U.S. Highway 65 would be impassable between the Waverly Bridge and Carrollton through August, the Corps predicts.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at mgorrell@marshallnews.com

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came down US 65 Sunday night... they had those big sand bags lined up on the west side of the highway and it is/was down to one lane. They were placing more bags as I drove down in the middle of the night.

I have talked to many who say it is only a matter of time before the water soaked/soggy/soft levees break.... Gotta love our "Government knows best" attitude that the liberals on the left dream about (Sarcasm)

-- Posted by mrxray on Wed, Jul 13, 2011, at 9:03 PM

We're lucky we haven't lost MO 41 and US 65 yet!

It's so weird to see the water up to the branches of the trees, kinda scary. Like a beast waiting for the cage to open.

-- Posted by Elton and Laura fan on Wed, Jul 6, 2011, at 5:27 PM

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