While most of the media watches the terrible flood waters spawned by Irene begin to recede, and wonders about Tropical Storm Lee’s rain around New Orleans, those of us along the Missouri River continue to deal with record flooding.

Yes, I said “continue.”

Consider this: portions of Interstate 29 have been closed between Kansas City and Omaha since June 28th. From the St. Joseph MO News-Press (emphasis added):

Hundreds of residents still haven’t been able to return to their flood-damaged homes and face the daunting task of cleanup and rebuilding. And the water level along the river is still high in many areas. But it’s dropped enough for some places to start taking down their temporary floodwalls.

“I think this is the first visible sign that recovery is starting to take place,” said Trey Cocking, the city manager of the Kansas town of Atchison, as the floodwall began coming down on Friday. . .

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that a stretch of the Missouri River above Rulo, Neb., will be back in its banks by mid- to late September. It will be several more weeks before that happens along a stretch of the river from Rulo, Neb., to Brunswick, Mo., said Jud Kneuvean, who serves as the emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district. Below Jefferson City, water is already in its banks.

“All those communities that have been flooded, it’s going to be months before they are going to be able to get in there and start rebuilding and repairing,” Kneuvean said. “Just because the water recedes back to its banks doesn’t mean that the pain and suffering is going to go away. It’s going to be there for a while.”

The huge snowpack combined with unexpected record Spring rains in the upper plains are STILL causing havoc, and will to do so for several more months.

That’s when the real work starts.

Look at it this way. Until the water recedes, no one knows how much damage has been done. Two or three months of moving water can scour away roadbeds and bridge support foundations. Two or three months of standing water can cause building foundations to move and settle, rendering the whole structure unsafe. And as long as the water is still there, no one know exactly what we’ll find once it goes away.

The News-Press spoke with a couple of members of one local levee board:

“When the Missouri River finally gets back in its banks then there will be a lot of rehab work to do,” Mr. Wood said.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent promise to Northwest Missouri elected officials and levee boards that the special session would include a call to set aside matching funds for emergency federal relief funds didn’t happen.

“We discussed it at the levee board meeting and agreed that it’s too soon because no one really knows the amount of damage,” Mr. Blakely said.

We can’t even guess at how much repair work will be needed, because the damage is still under water. The nightmare scenario is that the water recedes more slowly than is predicted, ultimately revealing some major damage, but then early snows arrive . . .

shudder

I’ve been asked about comparing these floods with Irene. The short answer is that Irene was [past tense] a three day storm event for folks along the East coast that caused a bunch of flooding and damage, while the midwest floods are [present tense] a three month disaster that is causing a bunch of flooding and damage — and in some places, it won’t be over for maybe another month.

Folks, the Missouri River is still above flood stage from Omaha to Kansas City.

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham came to Council Bluffs, Iowa to view the damage recently. The Omaha World-Herald described his reaction:

Latham, a Republican, was in Council Bluffs on Friday to tour the flooded areas along the river, and he said it was like nothing he’s ever seen before. The worst, though, may be yet to come.

“The real damage won’t be totally evident until the water recedes,” he said.

That’s when officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or perhaps President Barack Obama, should view the destruction directly to understand why requested federal aid should be granted, Latham said.

The congressman spent Friday with Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan and a number of city officials seeing the destruction firsthand. He said he was surprised by the amount of damage.

Welcome home, Congressman. It may be a surprise to you with all the time you spend on the East Coast, but we’re rather used to it around here by now.

It would be nice, though, if it were gone by Halloween.

photo h/t Susan Abbott of the Kansas City District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The barges in the photo are carrying rock for levee repairs upstream.