The 28-mile Hartsburg levee was keeping the Missouri River out of the town on Tuesday, but volunteers were uncertain how long it could last.
Levee district President Orion Beckmeyer said everything that could be done has been done, and if the levee breaks the effort of volunteers will have been for nothing.
"If it comes up another two inches, we're dead in the water — so to speak," Beckmeyer said. "We've done everything we can."
After weeks of high water, the Missouri River on Tuesday remained near the highest levels of the year in central Missouri. The gauge at Glasgow in northwest Howard County was at 35.5 feet at 4:30 p.m., 10.5 feet above flood stage, down about eight inches from the noon reading and almost two feet below the highest reading of the past week, 37.35 feet.
At Boonville, the river was 33.4 feet at 4:30 p.m. with little fluctuation during the day. That is 12.4 feet above flood stage and just below the highest water level of the past week, 33.7 feet. At Jefferson City, the gauge closest to Hartsburg, the river was 33 feet, just below the highest reading of the week, 33.1 feet, set early Tuesday morning.
Many major and minor roads are closed in the area, including Highway 40 in southern Howard County and Highway 179 in three locations in Cooper and Moniteau counties. The river level is causing high water in the creeks feeding into the Big Muddy and backwater forced Columbia to close the MKT Trail access at Jay Dix Station on Scott Boulevard and the county portion of the MKT Trail, northeast of Brushwood Lake and at Perche Creek.
The river forecast issued Tuesday morning, which includes expected rainfall through Tuesday night, shows residents along the river can expect it to fall as much six feet by Sunday.
The sandbagging effort has brought Hartbsurg together, Beckmeyer said. The volunteers have included a group of Mennonites from Indiana.
"It's just a community effort," Beckmeyer said, adding the levee has been "an amazing thing for the town."
Built in 1973 for around $500,000, he said the levee has prevented many damaging floods over the years.
"If this washes out, it will be water all the way into town," he said.
Volunteer Nick Scholtzhauer on Tuesday was working with members of the levee district board to reinforce areas of the levee that need it.
"What we're doing is just walking the top of the levee and placing bags where we need to," Schlotzhauer said.
They also were looking for holes animals have dug in the levee and filled them with chat and sand and tamping it down.
"Any little imperfections or varmint hole can cause it to blow out," he said.
Five of Schlotzhauer's 23 acres of farmland is under water, he said. Everyone is just waiting and hoping that the levee holds. He said some areas of the levee had water on top of it.
"We're just not sure," he said. "That's kind of an unknown. It's kind of a waiting game."
Hartsburg Mayor Bill Morendorp on Tuesday said all that was left to do was wait.
"It's the waiting," he said. "I moved to Boone County in 1985 and I've seen my share already."
Morendorp credited the board members of the levee district and said the board "really takes care of this district well." He said the town rallied when the flood approached and the response was automatic.
"In Hartsburg, if you live close to the river, you know what can happen," he said.
The river was over low areas near Wilton, off Route M in southern Boone County. Just beyond the main part of the village, the river is over the highway.
The river was lapping at the property of Josh Enochs, who has lived there eight years. He said he always has lived near the river because "it's peaceful."
The property of his neighbors, an elderly couple, is an island surrounded by flood water. Enochs said they parked their truck on his property and he uses his boat to ferry them out if they need to go somewhere. He also takes them whatever they need.
He said the only precautions he has taken so far is to place some sandbags around his property.