Increasingly fearful that a levee north of town will give way, Peru, Neb., officials on Tuesday requested assistance from the Nebraska National Guard.
Bruce Wiles, chairman of a local levee and drainage board, said he's advised a handful of people who live near the levees to move out.
“We've got so many boils, we've called the National Guard,” he said, referring to weak spots where water almost looks like it's boiling as it pushes through the levee.
Wiles said he's beginning to think it's just a matter of time before the levees fail.
“They're weakening. And with at least 60 days to go, the probability of success isn't as high as I thought it might be,” he said.
Mike Wight, a spokesman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said the request for National Guard help was being evaluated, with a decision to be made by Wednesday morning.
Part of the concern, he said, is that the levee is in a remote area where it may be difficult for people to escape if it fails.
Wight said the National Guard may provide helicopter patrols to help monitor the levee. Renee Critser, Nemaha County Emergency Management director, said about a dozen homes would be vulnerable if the levee fails. She said the town of Peru would not be affected unless the river rises substantially.
Area volunteers have spent much of the past couple of weeks building up the levee by 18 inches in an attempt to outpace the rising Missouri River, Wiles said. So far the effort has been successful, but the water is lapping at the top.
The levee protects city wells and a wastewater treatment plant as well as farms and homes on the north side of Peru, Wiles said. Critser said sandbags and dirt berms have been placed around the wells and wastewater plant to protect against a breech, although they probably won't provide protection for the duration of the flood, which is expected to continue at least through August.
“For now, we have done what we can,” she said.
Peru State College, located in the hilly part of Peru, is not in danger of flooding, although its water supply could be affected if the levee breaks, said spokeswoman Regan Anson. No students are living on campus during the summer, she said.
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