Corps Breaks Missouri Levee as Water Rises Elsewhere

By Jim Suhr and Jim Salter | May 4, 2011

A few momentary blasts, flashes of orange light, and the Mississippi River began pouring through a wide hole in a Missouri levee, intentionally blown open by the Army Corps of Engineers in the hope of saving a small Illinois town.

Even as the Corps carried out its bid to protect Cairo, Ill., floodwaters were rising downriver, including in Memphis, Tenn. And the breach in the Birds Point levee wasn’t expected to ease those flooding concerns.

The Army Corps exploded the Birds Point levee after nightfall on May 2, sacrificing 130,000 acres of rich farmland and about 100 homes in Missouri to spare the Illinois town of 2,800 residents.

In a joint statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate pledged to coordinate with federal agencies on relief efforts for those affected by the intentional breach.

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