On May 17, entertainment entrepreneur Richard King finalized a deal he had been working on for several months, the purchase of Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River, which offers food and music from local and regional acts on warm weekends.
The next week, the river invaded the venue as it rose 7 feet in 48 hours, shutting it down before King had much chance to enjoy his new venture.
“I have absolutely no control over what is going on right now even though I would like to,” King said.
A visit via kayak by a Tribune photographer Wednesday found water within 18 inches of the counter where beer, snacks and food orders were purchased. The only time water was higher was in 1995 and the record flood of 1993, when water reached the top of the doorway into the store.
“I have people going out and checking every day,” King said. “You can’t drive anywhere close to it.”
The photographer used a kayak because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has banned the use of motorized craft on the river until the flood recedes to prevent wakes from washing over the levees that remain intact. Those are becoming fewer, with 25 levees breached and 23 overtopped in the Corps’ Kansas City District in the most recent flooding.
The most recent levee to fail was in southern Callaway County, Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief of the Kansas City District, said on the daily flood update call.
The river has been 8 to 10 feet above flood stage and virtually steady since May 24, which is an exceptionally long period for the river to remain at or near a flood crest. The river had been forecast to begin falling by Thursday morning but rains of 1 inch or more across much of north Missouri overnight kept the river virtually unchanged.
Early Thursday afternoon, the Missouri was 35.14 on the Glasgow gauge, 10.14 feet above flood stage, 33.25 at Boonville, 12.25 feet above flood stage, and 33.23 feet at Jefferson City, 10.23 feet above flood stage.
There is a chance of rain the Columbia forecast for five of the next seven days. A forecast issued Thursday morning by the Missouri Basin Forecast Center anticipates the river will fall between 4 and 5 feet from Glasgow to Jefferson City by Tuesday morning.
During the daily flood conference call, Levin Low of the National Weather Service said precipitation over the next five to seven days won’t be widespread or very heavy.
“I don’t look for the next seven days to significantly impact the fall that we are showing,” Low said.
The river, when it does begin to fall, will remain at unusually high levels throughout the summer because the Corps will be releasing large amounts of water from reservoirs on the main stem of the river and from dams on tributaries where little room remains for additional water.
The expected releases from Gavins Point dam and Kansas lakes will be enough for the river to stay about 14 feet on the Boonville gauge without the additions of other tributaries or rainfall.
The long-range weather outlook makes continued flooding possible through the summer, Low said.
The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects above normal precipitation in the Missouri River watershed to continue through this month and into July and August, he said.
“It does not look positive,” Low said.
The corps has deployed sandbag filling machines to help with the flood fight and one is in use in Rocheport, Kneuvan said.
The prolonged high water is weakening the levees that have not yet failed, he said.
“The longer the water stays on them, the more saturated they become and decreases the likelihood they will continue to perform,” he said. “We have a lot of issues with under-seepage, development of sand boils, which is the movement of material under the levee systems, and piping, where water can flow freely under the levee,” he said. “All those things contribute and are things we are concerned about.”
Roads flooded last week remain flooded in Boone County and new roads added to the list this week are the entire length of Burr Oak Road in the McBaine bottoms, South Brushwood Lake Road between Scott Boulevard and Howard Orchard Road and West Woodie Proctor Road at the Little Bonne Femme Creek.
In the region, Highway 40 remains closed at Rocheport Gravel Road in Boone County and throughout the Howard County river bottoms. Spur Highway 240, which leads out of Rocheport to Highway 40, is also closed.
Highway 179 is closed at three locations in Moniteau and Cole Counties and Highway 94 in southern Callaway County is closed from Jefferson City to Bluffton in Montgomery County.
When this year’s historic flood was forecast King, employees and volunteers moved what could be moved to the second floor of the Cooper’s Landing building and put everything else as high as they could in the store.
“The building should be able to withstand the water,” King said. “I feel kind of helpless.”
King established himself in entertainment when he created the Blue Note in a converted building on Business Loop 70 in 1980 and moved it downtown, later acquiring Mojo’s, now Rose Music Hall, on Park Avenue. He sold both venues in 2015 but retained control of the annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival through his company Thumper Entertainment.
The purchase of Cooper’s Landing was to be a small step back into owning a venue but it does not have the space to seek acts that would compete with his former venues.
With one eye on river forecasts, King said Thursday he was getting ready to shop for cleaning supplies including squeegees to pull out the thick layer of mud the river will deposit and bleaches to disinfect what the river has touched.
But exactly when he and helpers will get back into Cooper’s is another question.
“That is the part about it that is so surreal,” King said. “There is absolutely nothing I can do about it.”