A propane tank was forced from its mount Wednesday by Missouri River floodwaters and began leaking at Jefferson City, Mo., forcing more than 400 people to evacuate. Residents of a North Dakota town were told to be ready to get out on short notice after a portion of a dam gave way.
As the Midwest continued to stagger under record floods, a high pressure area pushed across the region, raising hopes for drier weather.But a few thunderstorms developed during the night. Parts of Iowa got wind up to 90 mph, and Cedar Rapids got 1.45 inches of rain, a drop in the bucket compared with the storms that started the flooding.
Jefferson City authorities said the tank, which floated about 75 yards before being caught between signposts, was leaking. It was believed to hold about 16,000 gallons of liquid propane, which turns to a highly flammable gaseous cloud when released.
Emergency crews were trying to tie the tank to the signpoles to keep it from going farther, and planned to allow it to empty by itself, said Alan Kreter, spokesman for the Jefferson City Fire Department.
In Jamestown, N.D., a town of 15,000, the Army Corps of Engineers warned residents to be prepared to evacuate on short notice because a 10-foot section of the earthen dam holding back the Pipestem Reservoir just west of the town gave way overnight.
Corps experts were dispatched to determine whether a maximum release of water was needed to relieve pressure on the dam.
On Tuesday, Kansas City withstood a twin onslaught from the surging Missouri and Kansas rivers, but people there and in other Midwest communities under siege still worried about how long the levees will hold.
With swollen rivers pressing for weeks against levees built to withstand only temporary strains, residents across six states say another disastrous break is inevitable. The question is whether it will strike a big city like Kansas City or St. Louis or little Prairie du Rocher, Ill.
"There's just one guy who knows when it's going to happen, and he ain't talking," said C.E. "Buck" Stirnaman, police chief of rural Ellisgrove, working on loan to Prairie du Rocher.
In Washington on Tuesday, the House approved $3 billion for flood relief after a five-day fight over how to pay for it. The measure was sent to the Senate. President Clinton said he would ask for $1.1 billion more, telling governors of six flood states, "It could get worse."
In Kansas City, the levees held against record cresting of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The Missouri crested at 48.8 feet Tuesday - flood stage is 32 feet, and the previous record was 46.2 feet in 1951. The Kansas peaked around noon at 54.9 feet, nearly 22 feet over flood stage. The old, 1951 mark was 51 feet.