“The Corps’ number one priority is and remains public safety,” which is why it’s issuing this warning to Missouri residents in Southeast Missouri: Citizens with interests in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway that a significant risk of renewed flooding in that area exists for the near future.

The National Weather Service is calling for the La Niña weather pattern to continue into the spring … and the Army Corps of Engineers says that means flooding is imminent.

Corps spokesman Jim Pogue from the Memphis District says this leaves the flood plain in Southeast Missouri vulnerable when the spring rains arrive. He says the upper cravasse is at 51 feet. Pogue says getting it back to its 62.5 feet is the goal … but there’s only enough funding to get to 55. The lower two crevasses have been rebuilt to the 55-foot mark.

The levee was at 62.5 feet before the Corps blasted it out to save Cairo, Ill., from certain demise this winter and into spring.

At risk — again — in the coming spring are areas in the Lower Mississippi River Valley along with the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland river basins through the middle of December. The La Niña will continue to bring the likelihood of above normal precipitation through spring.

Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Corps’ Memphis District says current weather conditions “continue to hamper our ability to achieve our revised target of 55 feet using normal levee construction techniques” on the northernmost crevasse. “As such, I have directed workers to preposition supplies and equipment that will allow us to reach a 55-foot level of protection with temporary construction methods.”

Materials to be prepositioned for a temporary levee include supplies like HESCO bastions (large collapsible wire mesh containers with heavy duty fabric liners filled with sand), sand bags and plastic sheeting. These materials can be used to quickly raise the levee height, the Corps reports, and the HESCO bastions and related work can be done around the clock and would not be as dependent upon favorable weather conditions as conventional levee construction is.

The Corps will also be placing clay as weather permits. Heavy rains have interrupted that work several times in recent weeks.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:10 min.]