By Will Sites
HERMANN – Relentless rain and melting snow in the Upper Midwest is bringing the curious to the banks of the Missouri River. In this Gasconade County community known for its deep German heritage and the wine that followed it, the early spring focus is on the rising river that has always been respected, never tamed.
Upstream in the northwest corner of the Show-Me-State, a state of emergency is providing relief to Missouri River communities long under the mighty wrath and current of the Big Muddy. Both town and country have recently been destroyed by this longest river in America. Not thanks to climate change or politics, but by record snowfall and the rains that are melting it. The river’s rise – like many slow-moving natural disasters – is a magnet to locals and not-so-locals alike.
“This is a beautiful river, but it has to be respected,” said Ron Holman, a tourist from Indiana watching the river at Hermann’s riverfront park. “I’ve always been in love with the Missouri (River).” Monday afternoon, he was curious about the river’s future rise-and-fall trend.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) watches and reports the official river gauge, used by tugboats and others making a living on the Missouri. Locals look at long-established landmarks – boat ramps, railroad tracks, parking lots – and generations of experience.
“I wouldn’t worry about it just yet,” said one older man watching the water from the riverfront park. “Not yet.”
On Monday, the folks at NOAA reported the river to be in moderate flood at 28 feet. The river has a few more feet to rise before things get serious. For now, life goes on in Hermann and other communities downstream towards Washington and beyond. The forecast, it seems, calls for sitting by the river, watching the Big Muddy roll on and on and on.