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Army Corps decides to blow up Missouri levee

An aerial look at the flooding around Cairo, Ill. on April 28, 2011.
(via Butler Miller)
An aerial look at the flooding around Cairo, Ill. on April 28, 2011.

Updated 10:30 p.m. May 2:

Around 10:15, the Army Corps of Engineers posted to its Facebook pagethat the first section of the levee had been breached.

Updated 5:58 p.m. May 2 with information that levee will be broken and additional information:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to detonate the Birds Point levee in southern Missouri tonight.

Officials announced the decision this evening.

Major General Michael Walsh with the Corps called the flooding on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers “historic.”

Walsh says he would prefer to blow the levee in daylight but Cairo, Illinois’ river gauge continues to rise.

“Stress on the system is continuing and the Cairo gauge continues to show to almost 63 so we need to operate it as soon as we have it prepared,” Walsh said.

The Corps says it will detonate the levee between 9 and midnight tonight.

The detonation is expected to take pressure off Cairo, but will flood about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland.

Missouri National Guard troops were in the area beginning yesterday to secure the 100 homes that had to be evacuated.

Original Story:

Officials are close to a final decision on whether to blast open a Mississippi River levee in a bid to protect the Illinois town of Cairo from rising floodwaters.

The Army Corps of Engineers said Monday it would announce its intentions at 5 p.m. CDT. If the corps decides to break the flood wall, the actual demolition is expected to begin about three hours later at the Birds Point levee.

Missouri officials oppose the move, saying it could inundate 130,000 acres of farmland and hurt the region's economy by covering the land under sand and silt and rendering it useless.

The corps and the state of Illinois say the demolition is crucial to relieving river pressure on the floodwall protecting Cairo.

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.