Carroll County community fought back against Missouri River flooding — and won

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NORBORNE, Mo. — About 600 people in the tiny town of Norborne are celebrating a triumph over adversity that many told them couldn’t be done.

Last month, a community rallied to save their levees and prevent a flood from ruining their farmland.

When levees started breaking north of Kansas City, people downstream in Carroll County knew they were in trouble.

“If we don’t try, we are not gong to have anything to be proud of,” Garrett Heil recalled thinking at the time.

As the Missouri River started rising to a record level for this area, neighbors and other volunteers joined together to try to save thousands of acres of farmland that folks depend on for their livelihoods.

The state emergency management agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said there was nothing they could do.

They told the town to expect their levees to break.

More than half the town’s population, 350 plus people, joined together, including some from as far away as Colorado and Idaho.

They filled more than 120,000 sandbags with more than 3 million pounds of sand, and they stacked it on top of their levees.

When the water rose above the levee, onto their sandbags, many volunteers said a prayer.

And to the surprise of almost everyone, a disaster for this county was averted.

“Failing to save the levee would have catastrophic effects on Carroll County and this whole area,” said Stan Falke, Carroll County presiding commissioner. “It would have just been extreme. So the effort the community put together, we just never said we can’t do it. And we just kept fighting. And we did it.”

The county’s emergency management department provided all the sandbags and sand for the Herculean effort. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the county for those costs.

But the worst may not be behind them. With another huge snow dumped in the Dakotas, there’s an urgency to repair and fortify the weakened levees.

People fear the river will rise up again soon.

And this time they may not be so lucky.

But they do know not to listen to anyone who says nothing can be done.

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