KANSAS CITY • At least a few Missouri River towns that have been dealing with flooding all summer are finally seeing some hope: The water has receded enough to start removing sandbags.
Hundreds of residents still haven't been able to return to their flood-damaged homes and face the daunting task of cleanup and rebuilding. And the water level along the river is still high in many areas. But it has dropped enough for some places to start taking down their temporary flood walls.
"I think this is the first visible sign that recovery is starting to take place," said Trey Cocking, the city manager of the Kansas town of Atchison, as the flood wall began coming down Friday.
Businesses in Atchison, about 40 miles north of Kansas City, have struggled because high water closed a major bridge weeks ago. That has reduced the number of people coming to visit sites such as the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, which is in the home where the famous aviator was born.
At Mueller's Locker Room, a restaurant along the river, business has been down by 50 percent, in part because the flood wall ate up most of its parking and obstructed customers' view of the river, said manager Erin Riley.
"It has killed us," she said. "Now things possibly can get back to normal."
Meanwhile, crews in the Kansas City area community of Parkville were expected to work through the weekend to remove a sandbag wall. The city was using the wall's removal to try to promote tourism, writing in a news release that it's a good time to shop, eat and listen to music.
The Army Corps of Engineers predicts that a stretch of the Missouri River above Rulo, Neb., will be back in its banks by mid- to late September. It will be several more weeks before that happens along a stretch of the river from Rulo to Brunswick, Mo., said Jud Kneuvean, who serves as the emergency management chief for the corps' Kansas City district. Below Jefferson City, water is already in its banks.
"All those communities that have been flooded, it's going to be months before they are going to be able to get in there and start rebuilding and repairing," Kneuvean said. "Just because the water recedes back to its banks doesn't mean that the pain and suffering is going to go away. It's going to be there for a while."
In Atchison County, large swaths of farmland remain flooded after two chunks of levee gave way this summer, including one section that spanned close to half a mile, said Mark Manchester, the county's deputy director of emergency management.
He said only a handful of the 200 to 250 people evacuated from their homes have been able to return. There was one bright spot: Water ebbed enough this week to allow engineers to evaluate a four-mile stretch of U.S. Higway 136 that had been underwater in Atchison County, Manchester said.