Fort Leavenworth officials confirmed Wednesday that the swollen Missouri River breached a levee at the post’s Sherman Army Airfield that morning.

Fort Leavenworth officials confirmed Wednesday that the swollen Missouri River breached a levee at the post’s Sherman Army Airfield that morning.


“Risings levels of the Missouri River caused water to undercut the Union Pacific Railroad tracks northwest of Sherman Army Airfield here, causing the area to flood,” fort spokesperson Becky Steed said in a release.


At about 6:30 Wednesday morning, water began to erode earthworks placed to reinforce the levee. As of 10 a.m., the breach had emerged measuring 17 feet wide and 2 feet deep.


Steed said in the release that the air field was the only area of the fort said to be susceptible to flooding under the current projections. Because of the design of the levee system, the air field is a sort of “bowl” which will fill up with water as flooding continues.


Water is said to have reached the hangers at the facility, some housing planes owned by active-duty military assigned to the fort and others, through a special agreement with the city of Leavenworth, open for civilian use.


Airfield officials evacuated essential equipment, including planes, starting June 10. The city of Leavenworth shut down the portion of the airfield it uses last week.


The Missouri River was measured at 29 feet late Wednesday afternoon, according to observations from the Leavenworth County Emergency Management Office.


The level is an increase over the previously observed heighth of 27.24 feet measured Tuesday afternoon. Following the increase, the National Weather Service adjusted the predicted river level by Thursday to 29.3 feet, more than 9 feet above flood stage, before falling throughout the rest of the week.


Leavenworth City Manager Scott Miller told the members and stakeholders of the Leavenworth County Port Authority Wednesday that he feels confident that the flood might not reach the 34 feet at the top of the long-range prediction from the U.S. Corps of Engineers now that the forecasts for Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota have relatively low chances for rainfall.


“I personally don’t think we’re going to get above 30 feet,” he said.


Also factoring into the severity of the flood is the melting snowpack and higher than usual rainfall from earlier this year in states upriver in the Missouri River Basin like South Dakota, Iowa and others. Those earlier precipitation levels have necessitated releases from reservoirs along the Missouri, including those nearly twice the historical flows at the Gavins Point Reservoir in South Dakota, the southernmost dam on the Missouri River system.


According to County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha, as long as Gavins Point continues to release water at its current rate, the river in Leavenworth will continue to rise.


“There’s no such thing as a crest on this particular event,” he said.


A U.S. Army Corps of Engineer spokesperson said Wednesday the corps is for now sticking with the long-range forecast released last Friday in which the flood in Leavenworth could reach between 28 and 34 feet, the latter number representing what Magaha called the “worst case scenario.”