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Sandbags Come Out as Heavy Rains Soak Missouri, Illinois

May 18, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ There were flood flashbacks in several communities as hundreds of people fled their homes and ambulances sloshed through inundated streets.

Missouri took nature’s beating Wednesday, forcing Gov. Mel Carnahan to declare a statewide emergency. Floods forced about 1,000 people to flee their homes in southern Illinois.

Missouri police blamed water on the road for one traffic death.

The St. Louis area alone reported up to 5.7 inches of rain in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday evening. Swollen creeks and drainage canals forced more than 1,300 people to evacuate. Flood warnings were issued for several northern Missouri rivers.

East St. Louis firefighters rescued about 600 people, many of them from two public housing complexes and a retirement home.

Pumps drew water from swollen creeks flanking the historic French-settled town of Ste. Genevieve, south of St. Louis on the Mississippi River. Mobile home residents in St. Charles County, north of St. Louis, headed for higher ground. Both communities suffered during the 1993 floods.

A levee breach ``made a roaring sound like you hear on whitewater rapids,″ said Tom Morgan, who lives about 10 feet from Boschert Creek in St. Charles County.

The Missouri River was closed to navigation between Kansas City and St. Louis to ease pressure on straining levees, some of which have yet to be repaired. The river was steadily rising. Crests well above flood stage were projected late today and Friday.

``The river is coming up fast, too fast to do a lot of good on sandbagging,″ said Dave Spicer, emergency operations chief for Jefferson City and Cole County. ``But we learned a lot in 1993 and our people know how to move fast.″

``This is just a normal spring flood that happens along the Missouri River every few years,″ he said. ``Right now, it just so happens that everyone is a little gun-shy from 1993.″

Across the Mississippi in southern Illinois, a levee break along Canteen Creek in Caseyville forced 116 people from a nursing home, St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Norm Acker said.

Many secondary roads in Madison, St. Clair, Clinton and Marion counties were impassable because of rising water which resulted in more than 900 evacuations.

``We don’t know what might happen if it rains again,″ said Rich Gibson, who lives near Hartford, Ill. ``They’ve promised to bring in more bags, but I’ve got only about 18 inches before it gets into the house. It’s terrible.″

In Ohio, Gov. George Voinovich declared a state of emergency in four counties after storms caused isolated flooding and scattered evacuations. More rain was forecast.

In eastern Kansas, three tornadoes damaged homes and power lines but no deaths or injuries were reported. Swollen creeks and rivers also forced some evacuations, but officials said the problems couldn’t compare to the flooding two years ago.

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