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Mississippi River states not alone in facing flooding problems

March 23, 1997

MONTESANO, Wash. (AP) _ Dead cattle. Decks torn from houses. Shattered antique furniture. Impassible roads. Fresh-cut lumber coated with mud.

Those were among the sights confronting Gov. Gary Locke on a flood damage tour Saturday east of the coastal town of Aberdeen.

``The damage was just devastating,″ Locke said. ``The houses that we went to had been completely flooded out. They had four or five feet of water in them.″

In eastern Washington, a swollen creek rose Saturday and sent water past piles of sandbags in Sprague, a town of 400. Downtown resembled a lake. ``Water came up through the sewer system,″ Teresa Tolman said. ``I didn’t think it would come up through the toilet.″

Washington wasn’t the only state coping with floods or the threat of flooding Saturday.

The Mississippi River, swollen by the deadly March 1 storms in the Ohio River Valley, is expected to crest at 49.5 feet Monday at Vicksburg, Miss., more than 6 feet above flood stage. About 50 homes already may have extensive damage, officials said.

Lower downriver, about 700 inmates were sandbagging levees around the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Warden Burl Cain said the river should crest at 61.1 feet Friday, 2 inches higher than the 1927 record.

If the main levee were to break, the prison would be 12 to 18 feet underwater. ``That’s everything but death row and the administration building, which is on the hill,″ he said.

In central North Dakota, up to 4 feet of water poured through the south side of Beulah, population 4,000, as the Knife River rapidly flowed out of its banks Saturday night. Hundreds of homes were evacuated. Authorities drove payloaders through the floodwaters to rescue people.

Most flood warnings were lifted in Washington, and the waters were receding Saturday. But the number of homes damaged by flooding and mudslides from four days of rain rose to nearly 500. Locke declared emergencies in 19 counties.

Beverly Hert said she lost more than her house, as the waters killed 14 chickens and 30 of her 36 pet birds, including parakeets and doves.

The swirling, muddy water rose 5 feet in Cheryl Sipe’s remodeled living room, ruining items like her antique baby grand piano. ``It seems like a nightmare and that it’s never going to end,″ she told the governor.

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