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Residents Flirt With Disaster As Floodwaters Invade Town With AM-Storms Bjt

October 9, 1986

WEST ALTON, Mo. (AP) _ Floodwaters from the swollen Missouri and Mississippi rivers rushed into this tiny eastern Missouri village Wednesday, forcing most of the remaining residents to leave their homes.

But Wendy Bogen was trying to go back in.

″My parents are still in there,″ the 22-year-old schoolteacher said as she jogged along a road that would soon be covered with water. ″I don’t know anything. The phones have been out since yesterday. I’m worried sick.″

Bogen was to be frustrated again.

Rapidly rising waters stopped her from entering the town and she was forced to go back to higher ground and await word of her parents.

Other residents who had gone back to their homes early Wednesday said they were caught by surprise when they tried to leave in their cars and trucks.

Carroll Swan, who left his home late Tuesday, went back into town to get his dogs and move his appliances out of the basement.

″When I came back out the water was way up and I had to drive through about four feet of water,″ he said.

A levee north of town on the Mississippi side of the peninsula was breached about midnight Tuesday and sandbagging to keep out the Missouri on the south failed Wednesday. That let water pour into the peninsula about 15 miles above St. Louis, where this town of about 450 people is situated.

The flooding near the Missouri’s mouth followed record crests recorded Tuesday downstream at St. Charles, causing a two-mile levee breach there.

Swan, who moved to this tiny tlood-plain community 17 years ago, said he is tempted to sell his home and move to another town.

″But all my sons and daughters and their kids live here,″ he said. ″That’s the problem. That’s why I won’t sell and I’ll never leave.″

Another resident, Leona Ellebracht, was working in her garden as the floodwaters were entering the town just down the street from her house.

″I’m digging my flowers up in case it comes up,″ he said. ″I don’t want to lose them.″

Mrs. Ellebracht said her family hoped to stay in their home, which she said had never been flooded.

″In 1983, the water stopped at my next-door-neighbor’s yard,″ she said. ″We’ll leave when it gets in the house. But it never had yet. That’s why we stay.″

Two brothers, George and John Smith, each picked up a case of beer, pulled up their hip boots, and waded across a stream of water back into town.

″My wife’s in there,″ said George Smith. ″That’s why I’m going back.″

As they left, Curt Cherry took a drink from his can of beer and laughed.

″I want to watch my trailer float away,″ he said.