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Rising Rivers Knock Out Water Service to More Midwest Cities

July 25, 1993

Undated (AP) _ Rising water along the muddy Missouri River knocked out tap-water service early Sunday for nearly 80,000 residents of historic St. Joseph, Mo., stepping-off point for the Pony Express.

People crowded into grocery stores, buying up bottled water, paper plates and easy-to-fix food.

″I’m going around trying to find anything I can,″ said Diane Clark. ″They’re bringing in water but you can only get 10 gallons a day, and I have five people in my family.″

City officials and the National Guard brought in water from other Missouri towns and opened distribution centers.

Crews had spent all of Saturday sandbagging the riverside Missouri-American Water Co. plant, but when the Missouri River crested at 33 feet - flood stage is 17 feet - water came over the plant’s levee, said company spokeswoman Kristi Sinn.

She estimated it could take up to four days or more before seven damaged pumps and a control panel could be repaired at the plant.

Upstream along the Missouri, people also scrambled for bottled water because flooding shut down water service in Brownville, Neb.

″They had a big potluck dinner last night down at the (village) hall and people picked up water there,″ said Brownville Village Board chairman Martin Hayes.

In extreme southwestern Iowa, volunteers in Hamburg shored up weakened levees and fought to protect the city’s water system Sunday, with workers using a closed section of Interstate 29 as a sandbag staging area. Some 250 people were evacuated.

″This is hump day. If we can get through today, everything should begin tapering off,″ said City Councilman Pat Carlock, 32.

Drier air pushed into the sodden central Plains, and no new rain was expected in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and northern Missouri until late Monday or early Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. However, a brief, hard shower hit St. Louis on Sunday afternoon.

″It will stop raining. It’s time for the rainbow,″ the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Sunday in a service at a small Baptist church in St. Louis.

Near Perryville, south of St. Louis, a Mississippi River levee collapsed early Sunday while a Corps of Engineers employee was driving along it, but he scrambled to safety.

The employee, Harold Smith, was looking for sand boils - areas where water is forcefully percolating through the levee. His truck fell 15 to 20 feet into the breach as the river roared through, said Jack Niemi, a deputy district engineer for the Corps in St. Louis.

″He went down to the bottom with the truck,″ but was able to climb out a window and reach dry land, said Niemi, who spoke to Smith at a hospital where he was in stable condition with no serious injuries.

Niemi said he surveyed the breach by helicopter later in the morning and ″I saw no sign of the truck. I don’t know where the truck is.″

Elsewhere:

-In Illinois, the Mississippi breached part of the Sny Island levee Sunday 10 miles south of Quincy, flooding 44,000 acres. National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters had to be used to rescue four workers from the levee, one from a tree and one from a bulldozer. Five bulldozers were lost to the flooding.

″It was so saturated, it just went. It finally gave way,″ said Dick Adorjan, spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Some 125 miles to the south, officials evacuated nearly 2,000 residents for fear three levees would give way. They essentially surrendered one levee protecting Valmeyer, Ill., and some 70,000 acres of farmland because of water boiling through the structure.

″The Corps pulled out around 10 o’clock, they just gave up,″ said Bob Rippelmeyer, chairman of the Monroe County board.

-The Mississippi rose to a record 31.5 feet Sunday at Hannibal, Mo., where flood stage is 16 feet. A crest of 32 feet was expected Tuesday.

-In northeastern South Dakota, up to 10 inches of rain fell during the night at Sisseton and more rain fell Sunday, Mayor Jon Thieman said. Residents scrambled to keep rising water at bay while city officials tracked down residential propane fuel that floated away.

-Eastern North Dakota and parts of western Minnesota were battered by thunderstorms for a second straight day, but the area, the Red River Valley, drains northward to Hudson Bay. In Manvel, N.D., about 10 miles northwest of Grand Forks, residents were warned not to use tap water because 7.75 inches of rain in 24 hours caused widespread sewer backups.

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