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Officials unsure when Highway 59 might reopen

The closure of Highway 59 in southern Buchanan County could last through the weekend, according to county officials.

Posted: Sep 24, 2019 5:06 PM

(BUCHANAN COUNTY, Mo.) County officials say the closure of Highway 59 in southern Buchanan County could last through the weekend but are unsure when exactly it might reopen.

Bill Brinton, the county's emergency manager, says that the flooding is being caused by elevated river levels that is sending water through the busted Rushville, Sugar Lake Levee.

"The Rushville, Sugar Lake levee system collapsed in March and when the river level gets to 22 feet, water begins to flow into that area," he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri River near Atchison was at a level of 23.5 feet. Brinton says the river is expected to crest at over 24 feet later this week.

Brinton points to the topography of the area that is adding to part of the problem.

"What happens is it [the water] gets trapped because as water crosses 59 Highway and goes to the south, it's actually trapped on both sides," he said. "There's no way for it go back through the hole."

Officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation made the call to close the highway Tuesday because of water covering a section of the road east of Atchison. While the water is only a few inches deep in spots, it's the quick movement that officials say is the problem.

"That water is super powerful which is why we don't allow people to drive through the water," Tonya Lohman, MoDOT Northwest's district maintenance and traffic engineer said. "That force of that water can do a lot of damage."

Lohman says that after the water recedes, the road will need to be inspected to make sure no damage was done to the road.

"We always want to fully investigate all of those sites before we open them back to just make sure that it's safe and that we haven't had damage that's not visible," she said.

Lohman says it is difficult to determine when the road might reopen.

"I think it will go fairly quickly up and then back down again," she said. "That's what it seems to be doing but with the levees broken out still, it's just hard to tell."

For people wanting information on other road closures in Missouri, visit MoDOT's Traveler Information Map.

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