Flood Operations at the Airport
The Missouri River in St. Joseph has been at flood stage since March and it doesn’t look like the levels will be going down anytime soon. Although the Missouri River did not breech the levee system at the airport when this disaster first presented itself in March, there have been many other risks associated with this flood with one of those risks being internal flood. Rosecrans Memorial Airport was placed on the river bottom and in 1952 when the river cut a new channel, the airport ended up in the middle of an oxbow. As the river has remained at or above flood level, crews have been unable to open the floodgates to let water back into the Missouri River. The airport is surrounded by an oxbow lake, Browning Lake, and these floodgates let the water from the lake into the river. However with the inability to open these gates, the oxbow began to flood internally.
At the initial stages, rented pumps were placed on the R-470-461 levee to relieve pressure from Browning Lake by pumping water over the levee into the Missouri River. While these two pumps, one 18-inch pump and one 12-inch pump, can pump a massive amount of water, it is not enough to keep up with Mother Nature when she dumps a large rain into the French Bottoms. These pumps have run for 24 hours a day since March and running them has taken a toll on city staff and on the budget. With help from water protection staff, airport staff has been able to keep these pumps fueled and operating for the last six months. The airport alone has spent approximately $39,000 on diesel fuel to keep these pumps running.
Airport Road 238 is the only access to Rosecrans Memorial Airport. If these pumps were not in place, Browning Lake would have swallowed the road and cut off access. This unprecedented Missouri River flooding has placed the city and airport in stressful situations with the financial burden and man hours involved.