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Posted Monday, May 2, 2011, at 10:57 AM

As the heavens opened and the rain fell over the last couple of weeks, our creeks and rivers rose to unprecedented levels. The rush of water across the area is putting pressure on the levee system so many of us depend upon for protection. Ultimately, the levees on the Black River breached and 1,000 residents in Butler County were displaced from their homes.

We are monitoring the situation through sources on the ground. We also are receiving updates from SEMA and the Governor's office on a regular basis. They are keeping us informed.

Our latest information indicates that the levee on the Black River was breached in three places. The breaches are 150, 60 and 50 foot wide and occurred south of Poplar Bluff. This flooded south Butler County including areas around Broseley, Qulin, Coon Island and Neelyville.

I was on the ground in Neelyville and Qulin to help with the sandbagging and relief efforts. Until the waters recede, keeping these residents equipped with food, shelter and water is our main focus. The relief efforts in Butler County have been remarkable. The residents have pulled together to aid their neighbors.

Coon Island had to be evacuated, and many in other towns are staying with relatives or in shelters. The governor sent 400 National Guardsmen to Butler County to assist in the evacuation and relief efforts.

The conditions in the rest of Southeast Missouri are not any better. Our friends in Mississippi and New Madrid counties are faced with the possibility that the Army Corps of Engineers will blow the levee at Bird's Point in order to protect communities downstream.

Last Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers won a suit filed by Attorney General Koster that would have stopped the Corps from blowing the levee at Bird's Point. Koster filed the suit to try to preserve some of the most fertile farmland in the country which lies within the floodway. We are afraid that these farms will be damaged for generations to come if the levee is blown.

It is our understanding that the Mississippi River was supposed to crest at 60.5 feet on Saturday and continue at that level for several days. The Corps told us that they wouldn't blow the levee unless the river reached 61 feet. However, the Corps is concerned that if the river stays at 60.5 feet for an extended period of time, then they will have no choice but to proceed with their plan to relieve the stress by blowing the levee.

Your federal, state and local governments have truly made this a collaborative effort. The governor surveyed the damage in Poplar Bluff last Tuesday and held a roundtable discussion on the flooding. Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson held a roundtable at the Chamber of Commerce in Poplar Bluff last Wednesday to discuss the federal government's role in the aftermath of the flooding. And we continue to stay in touch with city and county officials to provide immediate relief.

While at this point the waters have started to recede, our friends and neighbors aren't out of the woods just yet. They were predicting more rain to move in Saturday. This is supposed to last through Tuesday. And we still have to endure all of the water that will filter down from the north. Please keep all of the citizens affected by the flooding in your thoughts and prayers.

Finally, I would like to praise the efforts of all of the volunteers who have showed up to help their neighbors. Your efforts have been remarkable, and you make the 163rd District proud.

You have been the exception to the rule. When this disaster struck, we came together as a community by volunteering our time and resources for the well-being of our neighbors. My hope would be we continue with this work ethic throughout our communities as conditions improve.

As the cleanup begins in the area, I encourage you to continue helping these communities get back on their feet, and we will do our part to put them back on the road to recovery.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

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163rd Capitol Report
Rep. Kent Hampton - 163rd District
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