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The View Of Midwest Flooding From Kansas City

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska - across the Midwest, there has been massive flooding that has killed at least three people in the region and caused billions of dollars in damages. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has said the situation is expected to become more dire in what it predicts will be an unprecedented flood season with, quote, two million - "200 million people at risk," as the impacts from climate change are happening now.

Today the crest of that flood is expected to roll through Kansas City, and that's where Frank Morris of member station KCUR has been reporting. Frank, good morning.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what are you seeing?

MORRIS: Well, of course the damage up in Nebraska and Iowa is extensive and heavy, you know, maybe approaching $3 billion worth. Down into Kansas, as the Missouri River - I'm covering the Missouri River - comes through Kansas and Missouri, it's not as bad. There was warning here, and people got out. Also, the floodwaters have not been as severe. We've seen some levees breached.

There's been houses flooded, forced evacuation orders for parts of different towns, thousands of acres of farms and a lot of grain sitting on the ground just ruined in floodwater. In Leavenworth, Kan., on the Missouri River, the town's built mostly up on a hill above the flood plain. But the record flooding is causing problems. And there's a wastewater treatment plant that was just inundated. And untreated sewage is just sloshing out into the river, or into the flood. Jim Baskas (ph), a longtime Leavenworth resident, pulled up and took a look.

JIM BASKAS: This is the third one. Back in 1953 was worse than this. I was a little guy, but I remember that one. And '93, it was bad. But this here - the sewage treatment here - that - boy, that's something else.

MORRIS: And that plant is on a little tiny creek that is now at least a half-mile wide. And like a lot of streams and tributaries, it's backed up. But the actual river, that river is is something else, again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, that Missouri River has been blowing out record-high flood crests some places in the last week. Is that still happening?

MORRIS: No. You know, in St. Joseph, Mo., up north of here, that was just a few inches from the record set in 1993, this huge flood in 1993. And the corps is not anticipating new highs along the Missouri River this week as the crest kind of rolls across the state of Missouri toward the Mississippi. At Leavenworth, though, it's still intense - you know, the second-highest water level on record.

And, again, the river is just kind of awesome. It's just speeding, steep, powerful. You can see these big tree trunks, fuel tanks, parts of buildings zipping by. And like a lot of Leavenworth residents, Sheila Stephenson (ph) came by to take a look yesterday. And when she saw the river, she was just stunned.

SHEILA STEPHENSON: Oh, my God, it's just crazy. I ain't seen nothing like this in years - since '93, right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if the river levels aren't breaking records anymore - we only have a few seconds left - are people relieved?

MORRIS: Not really because the levees are in terrible shape. The whole system is full. The ground's saturated. Of course, there's a bunch of snowmelt still coming our way. And so - and you know, we're not even into flood season yet.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Frank Morris of member station KCUR. Thanks so much for the update.

MORRIS: You bet, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.