Hannibal flood walls go up

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The flood walls on the bottom of Broadway, in the parking lot of the B&B Cinema, are lifted and put into place by the crane. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The flood walls are now up in downtown Hannibal.

The process of putting the five gates up began Wednesday morning and finished before the end of the work day.  

Hannibal Police Chief Jacob Nacke, who is also the Director of Emergency Management, said the gates went up due to the projected river level of at 22 feet due to melting snow in the north.

The river level was at 18.55 feet on Wednesday morning and the National Weather Service issued a flood warning at moderate severity for Hannibal at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Nacke explained it’s a normal response to the predicted river level and not one that is currently of concern.

“It has just become a routine with the river going up and putting the gates in. Those are the actions we take to keep Hannibal dry,” he said. “That’s what we are accustomed to. If you look around it doesn’t draw much fanfare because this happens every year when the snow melts.”

There are also local factors that work into the river levels.

Nacke explained that storm water backup flows into the river. He also said Bear Creek overflow affects river levels.

“Bear Creek basically can’t drain. The river starts to push water into Bear Creek a little bit and you see some effects down here on the side closer to the South Main Street here with Bear Creek,” he said. “Some areas along Bear Creek in the South Main area behind Clemens Field down on 6th and Colfax will start to get some water down there. That isn’t abnormal but the soccer field gets some water then.”

When watching the cranes lift the heavy walls might seem like slow motion, but Nacke referred to the process of installing the flood gates as a “well-oiled machine.” 

“The flood walls have been here since 1993 so we have had 30 years of experience dealing with the river as far as the flood walls and the levy and gates,” he said. “It’s a well-oiled machine because the contractors know when the river levels are going up and they just call and ask, ‘Ok. When do we need to be there?’”

As far as the process of taking the walls down, Nacke said it just depends on the weather and forecast. They will sometimes take down the gates on Broadway while leaving the other ones up.

“One concern is taking them down too early. If the temperatures get warm again or there’s rain up north, we don’t want to have to sit there and put it back in. There is an expense involved with that,” he said. “We just have to wait and see what the river does.”

Image courtesy of the National Weather Service

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