2011 Missouri River Flood; 5 Years Later

Posted at 11:00 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 00:00:44-04

Experts call the flood of 2011 a 500-year flood.  The Missouri River spilled its banks, impacting 700 miles from Montana to Missouri.  For the homes and towns near the banks, the flood was devastating.

Marty Summy was one of many who watched as water surround and filled his home.  He and his neighbors watched as the river crept closer.

“We had a feeling that we were going to have a problem, so that took up everyone’s time getting their houses cleaned out and everything,” said Summy.

Then homeowners got the call they had been dreading.

“We were over here doing a little spraying and a neighbor got a call from another neighbor said they went into their home to get some belongings out and when they came out about an hour later they had to drive through moving water and we pretty much new somewhere the levee had broken,” said Summy.

Yards quickly turned into lakes and road flooded and washed away.  Homeowners were left to watch from afar as water slowly seeped into their homes.

As the river swelled federal authorities and concerned citizens rushed to shore up hundreds of miles of levees.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the community response made all the difference.

“People out filling sandbag late at night, pumping water out of the behind the levee that was seeping and stuff,  so that's a great story about how people came together and fought the flood and the communications worked so if there is anything good out of it it's that,” said John Henderson, Army Corps of Engineers.

The Mighty Mo took its toll on the federal levee system.  The Corps spent about 70 million dollars on reinforcing the levees during the flood.   The Corps monitors more than 250 miles of federal levees from North of Omaha to Rulo, NE.  After the water receded nearly all of those levees had to be repaired.

The summer of 2011 proved to be a teaching moment.  Corps officials say the event set a new data point and helped it identify issues with the levee system.  That new data will help the next time the Missouri River spills its banks.