Mandatory evacuations in Mississippi Co. spillway - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Mandatory evacuations in Mississippi Co. spillway

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(Source: Army Corps of Engineers) (Source: Army Corps of Engineers)
(Source: Army Corps of Engineers) (Source: Army Corps of Engineers)
(Source: Army Corps of Engineers) (Source: Army Corps of Engineers)
(Source: Army Corps of Engineers) (Source: Army Corps of Engineers)
(Source: Army Corps of Engineers) (Source: Army Corps of Engineers)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS/AP) - Authorities are going door to door to homes in the floodway area in Mississippi County enacting a mandatory evacuation order after a federal judge ruled the Army Corps of Engineers can break a levee and flood the farmland if necessary to spare an Illinois town upstream.

This effects about 300 residents in around 100 homes.  A majority of the homes are in the Pinhook area.

The Mississippi County wants everyone in the spillway area to be out by 4 p.m. Friday.  They are shutting of power at 5 p.m. 

No one will be allowed to go back.  It will be heavily guard by the county and National guard.

Meanwhile, Missouri officials are appealing the federal judge's ruling.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. ruled Friday that the corps' plan to breach the Birds Point levee is appropriate to ensure flood-control along the Mississippi. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis a short time later.

[Read the ruling.]

Friday Evening, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon took an aerial tour of the Birds Point levee area.   He also held a meeting with local leaders and lawmakers.   

Nixon told the group it's his job to represent and take care of Missouri in the levee dispute. 

"We've all been through floods a lot, they are very tiring, they are very stressful, the level of risk, the level of pressure that builds up over time, it's just really important that we stay steadfast, that's why we've put so many assets in the region," said Nixon.

He also acknowledged what a big challenge the corps of engineers and others have ahead of them.

"I don't want to in any way shape or form underestimate the challenge we've got here, if this thing comes up another foot and a half to another 2 feet, which is clearly within the zone of reality here, and something cracks somewhere or something like that, I think these guys are potentially on a hair trigger, that would potentially help the entire system, that's the challenge we've got here," Nixon said.

The corps has proposed using explosives to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the levee in southeast Missouri's Mississippi County. They agency says doing so could ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

A federal judge is giving the go-ahead to the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to intentionally break a Mississippi River levee in southeastern Missouri.

The break could happen as early as this weekend to spare a flood-threatened Illinois town just upriver.

Friday's ruling in Cape Girardeau turns back Missouri's bid to block the corps from blasting a hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, just south of Cairo, Ill.

Missouri argued the floodwaters would ruin farmland and damage about 100 homes.

The Army Corps has called the possible break necessary to ease waters rising near Cairo, a 2,800-resident town where the rain-swollen Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet.

Jim Pogue, Public Information Officer for the Army Corps of Engineers says their concern is to protect the greatest amount of people and that the earliest decision would be made is this weekend.

The blast would blow a 2000 foot section of the levee.  The corps is in a holding pattern and monitoring water levels.

Pogue says there is no hard and fast numbers that if the water level reaches a certain point to determine what would do.

He says if the corps plans to go ahead with the blast, they will try to give people a 24 hour notice to get out. 

This would be the first time explosives would be used on the levee since 1937.

"I thank the court for making the right decision in allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take the steps it deems necessary to ensure public safety during this crisis," said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Friday. "We must now continue to work together to protect the lives of everyone affected by this severe flooding. My hope is that this decision will be upheld as it proceeds through the judicial process."

Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. heard arguments from attorneys for Missouri and the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday on a corps' proposal to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri. The corps says breaking the levee would ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the swollen Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

Missouri says the rush of water would ruin prime farmland, flood about 90 homes and displace 200 people.

Near the beginning of the hearing, Limbaugh said he would expedite the case given the circumstances.

Koster's legal team argued the corps' action would violate Missouri's Clean Water Act and cause "certain damage" to the state and its people.

A corps economist testified a levee failure in Cairo could result in $265 million in damage, although the Corps acknowledged it's still holding.

Judge Stephen Limbaugh took the motion under advisement just after 7 p.m. Thursday, and Koster said the judge had a tough call to make.

"It's a hard set of facts and there are a lot of interests that have to be weighed on both sides of the state line and throughout the federal justice system," said Koster Thursday before the ruling. "I think the judge took in the information.  I think he's got a very difficult decision that he has to make overnight."

For its part, corps lawyers countered they have "unreviewable discretion" when it comes to implementing the floodway plan that "could" result in the blasting of that levee.

They also stressed the blasting option does not come into play unless and until the river overtops the levee at its lowest points, or 60.5 feet.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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