MESSEX, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Water from the swollen South Platte River in northeastern Colorado was slowly making its way toward about 15 homes in the tiny community of Messex on Tuesday, but it’s not expected to cause damage like that seen during historic floods in September 2013.
The breach, reported Monday but anticipated since last month, prompted evacuation notices for about 20 residents in and around the former railroad town, although an unknown number of people were still in their homes.
Since then, the breach has grown larger and deeper, sending a lot of water out of the river, Washington County emergency manager Michael McCaleb said. However, he said the water was spilling out into flat fields, slowing it down and diminishing its force. He expected the water to reach a cluster of six homes by evening and likely flood their basements.
The basements and the living spaces of those homes also flooded during the September 2013 floods, which also breached the levee. McCaleb said he didn’t expect the water to hit with enough force to sweep any homes away.
“In 2013 when the flood came through it only made it a third of the way up our driveway. So our house is safe, hopefully,” Messex resident Jonna Jole told CBS4.
County and state authorities had been preparing for another possible breach since last month. Residents were initially warned to be ready to leave about two weeks ago, but then the river fell. After the river rose again last week, sandbags and information on possible emergency evacuations were distributed over the weekend.
The levee, which is at a bend in the river, was repaired after the 2013 floods. When it was breached it water began flowing over roads and bridges.
But McCaleb said it seems like the river wants to make a new channel right through that breach. “This river has been so high for so long that it’s been eroded and eroded,” he said.
Also at risk are acres of farm land and livestock. There’s been such a sustained event of high water that fields have been drenched.
“It’s just frustrating,” Jole said.
The situation is so bad at the levee that crews can’t even get close enough to make repairs.
If more water comes the town of Merino to the northeast in Logan County could also be threatened.
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