Flood concerns rise, along with river depths, in Atchison, a city familiar with high water

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ATCHISON, Kan. -- Concern over ongoing flooding is high in one Missouri River city.

Floodwaters have threatened Atchison in the past, and people who've lived there a long time are bracing for water that's slowly creeping into downtown.

The scene along the banks of the Missouri River delivers a sick feeling.

As the river continues to burst from its banks and rush along at a rapid clip, people in Atchison are on the edges of their seats. The city's older citizens said they've seen flooding before, and they don't want it to happen again.

Activity in downtown Atchison is nearing a dead halt.

The Amelia Earhart Bridge, which leads across the river into Rushville, Missouri, is closed to traffic in both directions, as water levels continue to climb. Workers installed orange and white barricades on Thursday afternoon.

As of Thursday evening, the adjacent railroad bridge was nearly underwater, and water was seeping into Veterans Memorial Park, which sits alongside the river.

Town and Country Tire sits about 500 yards from the river, which is too close for comfort for Dan Glennon, the shop's longtime owner. Glennon has owned that downtown store since 1989, and for him, contending with the river is a fact of life.

"I walk down there every morning to see how much it's raised," Glennon said Thursday afternoon.

"When you can see the water running, and you can see how high it is. It's a concern," he said. "My biggest fear, actually, is if we would get a bunch of rain and the sewers couldn't go because of the river being up. It would be more the surface water than the river itself."

On Thursday, river flooding was washing out a vacant waterfront warehouse. Across the river in Rushville, waterlogged farmland and wooden areas could be spotted. The rising water in the city's riverfront park was attracting a crowd of interested onlookers, who couldn't believe how quickly the water was rising.

"This is bad. They just closed Highway 59 today across the bridge," Ruth Hollingsworth, a retired nursing assistant, told FOX4.

Hollingsworth was among the locals who commented that they remembered the effects of other floods, including weather events from 1957 and 1958, during which water from the river claimed parts of the city's downtown district.

"I live far enough away that it doesn't affect me directly as far as the river goes, but it does because I live here," Hollingsworth said.

Wes Lanter, Atchison's director of emergency management, said the city is under a boil-water advisory. River stages are a point of attention for Atchison's population.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service measured the Missouri River at 29.3 feet, and it's expected to crest around 30.1 feet. That's only two feet shy of the all-time high mark for that section of the Missouri River.

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