Rising Missouri Threatens Nuclear Plant as Waters Near Record

(Bloomberg) -- The Missouri River will reach near-record levels after Midwest and Great Plain streams were swelled by a massive storm that soaked fields and dropped heavy snow from Colorado to Canada this week.

At Rulo, Nebraska, the Missouri was forecast to crest within 6 inches (152 millimeters) of its record height set in June 2011, the National Weather Service said. Further downstream in St. Joseph, Missouri, it’s expected to reach within a foot of its all-time high.

Across the region, about a fifth of river gauges are at or above flood stage, prompting the Coast Guard to close portions of the river to all vessels. At least one nuclear plant was preparing to shut.

Rising waterways are the latest concern after blizzard-like conditions in the Dakotas, western Nebraska and Kansas threatened farms and ranches and inundated mines. Chicago wheat futures capped the biggest weekly gain since August as the harsh winter weather stressed dormant plants.

Rising Missouri Threatens Nuclear Plant as Waters Near Record

In addition to heavy rains, the storm pulled in warm air that’s melting heavy snow in other parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, said Don Keeney, senior agricultural meteorologist at Radiant Solutions in Gaithersburg, Md. Feedyards, which raise cattle to market weights, are seeing flooding as a result. That’s hampering feeding and transportation, and can cause diseases like foot rot in animals.

Storm Passes

While weather conditions have eased, rivers throughout the Midwest and Great Plains will remain high through the weekend, said Marc Chenard, a senior branch forecaster at the Weather Prediction Center.

Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper nuclear plant will close when the Missouri reaches 901.5 feet above sea level, which is forecast for late tonight or early Saturday morning, said Mark Becker, a utility spokesman. Staff have placed sandbags along the river levee and the plant itself should remain “high and dry” because it was built 903 feet above sea level, he said.

‘Waiting to Melt’

After one of the wettest falls and winters in recent history, farmers across the Great Plains and Midwest are pondering what will happen when temperatures rise and more rain arrives.

“There are four to eight inches of frozen water in the snow and ice from much of the Dakotas through Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Mike Tannura, founder of T-Storm Weather in Chicago, said by telephone. “It is just sitting there waiting to melt.”

Still, even if the region turns into a muddy mess, farmers should still be able to wait for conditions to improve for corn and soybean planting, Tannura said. In northern states, crops can go in by May or June and still be all right, he said.

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