Levees Stressed By Relentless Mississippi River, More Rain In Midwest With
Levees Stressed By Relentless Mississippi River, More Rain In Midwest With AM-Farmers-Flooding, Bjt
Undated (AP) _ Rain kept on coming Thursday in the Midwest, placing further stress on levees weakened by the raging Mississippi River and chasing away diehard residents who vowed not to evacuate.
The heaviest rain was in portions of Nebraska and Iowa, where up to 3 inches fell. In Iowa, the river hit a record high of 22 1/2 feet at Davenport. Flood stage is 15 feet and the previous record was 22.48 feet set in 1965.
″No lifeguard on duty. No diving,″ read a sign in the flooded parking lot of Big Muddy’s restaurant in Burlington, Iowa.
Across the river in west-central Illinois, National Guard units and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped operate bulldozers around the clock to shore up a 52-mile levee at risk of bursting its entire length.
About 2,000 people in several threatened communities were evacuated.
Thousands of people have evacuated their homes in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota since heavy rains began bulging the Mississippi and its tributaries in June.
The flooding left 16 people dead and federal officials estimate it has caused more than $1 billion in damage so far to property and crops.
Flooding in Missouri worsened Thursday. Levees broke or were overtopped from Alexandria in extreme northeast Missouri to St. Louis. Hundreds have left their homes from southeast Iowa to east-central Missouri.
Though downtown St. Louis is protected by floodgates to levels up to 52 feet, high water spilled into low-lying areas south of downtown. The river swelled to 40.1 feet on Thursday and was expected to crest next week at 45 feet, which is 15 feet above flood stage.
Alexandria was covered by 8 to 10 feet of water and the town’s 500 residents were evacuated Wednesday. So much land was under water there was nothing to be done but let it go where it wants to go, said Hans Huenink, a Missouri Water Patrol spokesman.
″There’s no preventative measures anyone can take up there,″ he said.
In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad said 2,500 families in the state have been forced from their homes by flooding.
President Clinton deemed portions of Wisconsin and Minnesota federal disaster areas. Inspectors assessed damage in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and South Dakota. Clinton said he will ask Congress next week to approve emergency aid for victims of the flooding.
Most of the new rain that fell in northeast Nebraska on Thursday was in sparsely populated areas, covering already swamped farm fields with more water.
Flooding on other rivers, including the Meramec and Missouri, also caused problems. Tributaries backed up into residential neighborhood in St. Louis County.
Backwater from the Missouri topped a levee, forcing the evacuation of about 20 families in Carroll County.
The Mississippi broke through a levee at West Alton, Mo., just north of St. Louis, on Wednesday, forcing remaining diehard residents to move to dry land.
″West Alton is virtually a ghost town,″ said Tim Weber, spokesman for the St. Charles County emergency management agency.
Authorities patrolled evacuated areas to deter would-be looters ″so people don’t lose any more than they already have,″ Huenink said.
Bob Rogers of the Missouri Emergency Management Agency said he expects more evacuations throughout the state as flood water continues to rise.
″You are going to have a lot more of them. Many of these levees were weak already because they had been soaked by the water and they are all starting to go,″ Rogers said.
In Ste. Genevieve, about 50 miles south of St. Louis, 200 National Guard members used wedge-shaped concrete highway bumpers, sandbags and gravel to add height to a small levee while river water inched toward the top on the other side.
″We have to fight it until we win it or lose it,″ said disaster coordinator Mick Schwent.
At risk is a town full of 18th- and early 19th-century buildings, including examples of the distinctive vertical log construction of French creole architecture, city spokeswoman Jean Rissover said.
Ste. Genevieve, founded in 1735 by French settlers, was listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most endangered historic places in the United States. The organization cited inadequate flood protection.
The city has been trying for years to get a big federal levee along the river bank to replace smaller, temporary levees built in recent years.