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."
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."
"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.
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.