In response to historic flooding in some areas of the state, Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday activated the Missouri National Guard to protect local communities and support emergency response personnel.
The guard’s responsibilities will include providing security in evacuated areas and directing traffic from road closures.
On Sunday (Dec. 27), Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri due to heavy rain and flooding. As a result of this severe and prolonged storm system, river levels in some locations are predicted to exceed the historic crests during the Great Flood of 1993 and the state is working closely with local officials to prepare and respond.
“As rivers rise to record levels, we are continuing to support Missouri communities and protect public safety during this historic flooding event,” Nixon said. “These citizen soldiers will provide much-needed support to state and local first responders, many of whom have spent the last several days working around the clock responding to record rainfall and flooding.”
Guard responsibilities will include directing traffic away from road closures and providing security around breached levees and evacuated areas. Flooding has already led to the evacuation of West Alton and caused hundreds of road closures across Missouri, including in St. Louis and all lanes of I-44 at Jerome near Rolla.
The governor reiterated his call for motorists to never drive around barricades or into standing water on roadways. There have been a total of 13 flood-related deaths in Missouri, 12 of which were caused by vehicles being swept from flooded roadways.
As part of the state’s ongoing emergency response efforts, Nixon and members of his state emergency management team Tuesday met with local officials in Perry County and will meet later with experts at the National Weather Service(NWS) Forecast Office in St. Charles County to prepare for record high river levels.
“All of us remember the devastating impact of the Great Flood of 1993 and that’s why we have been working proactively with our local and federal partners to prepare and respond,” Nixon said. “Our state emergency management team will continue to work hand-in-hand with local officials to ensure they have the resources they need to protect their communities.”
NWS officials predict the Mississippi River at the Chester, Ill., gauge, across the river from Perry County, will crest at 49.7 feet on Friday – matching the previous record set in 1993. The local levee district in Perryville has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fortify the Bois Brule levee to protect area homes and businesses, including Sabreliner Corporation and Gilster-Mary Lee.
In addition, the Mississippi River at Thebes south of Cape Girardeau is expected to crest at 47.5 feet on Saturday, nearly two feet above the previous record. Other rivers are also predicted to reach historic highs. For example, the Meramec River at Valley Park is forecast to crest at a record 42 feet.
The State Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor conditions and coordinate response activities with local partners. Gov. Nixon has been receiving updates from his emergency management team to assess the current weather situation and address local needs. The team includes senior officials from the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Missouri National Guard, Missouri State Highway Patrol and the State Emergency Management Agency. The Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan also has been activated, allowing state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions to provide emergency services.
Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information, and referrals are urged to call 211 that is now available throughout Missouri.
For more information on road closures, visit the Missouri Department of Transportation’s traveler information map.