The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 19, 2013

Floodwaters rising after storms deluge heartland

ST. LOUIS — Flood fighters from small Mississippi River hamlets to the suburbs of Chicago staged a feverish battle Friday to hold back raging rivers, after days of torrential rains soaked much of the Midwest.

Mississippi River communities in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri are expected to see significant flooding — some near-record levels — by the weekend, a sharp contrast to just two months ago when the river was approaching record lows. Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana had flooding, too. All told, dozens of Midwestern rivers were well over their banks after rains that began Wednesday dumped up to 6 inches of new water on already saturated soil.

In Quincy, Ill., the normally slow to swell Mississippi River rose nearly 10 feet in 36 hours, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said. One bridge in the town about 120 miles north of St. Louis was closed Friday, leaving one open.

"That's pretty amazing," Fuchs said of the fast-rising river. "It's just been skyrocketing."

Smaller rivers in Illinois seemed to be causing the worst of the flooding. In suburban Chicago, which got up to 7 inches of rain in a 24-hour period ending Thursday, record levels of water were moving through the Des Plaines River past heavily populated western suburbs and into the Illinois River to the south.

As many as 1,500 residents of the northern Illinois city of Marseilles were evacuated Thursday night when fears of a levee breach were heightened as seven barges broke free from a towing vessel and came to rest against a dam on the Illinois River.

And in the central Illinois town of London Mills, the swollen Spoon River topped a levee, forcing about half of the 500 residents to evacuate. Police Chief Scott Keithley said some homes were half under water, and abandoned cars were sent floating in the torrent of water.

Mississippi River flooding wasn't as pronounced as its water level varies greatly but is typically highest in the spring, so minor flooding is not uncommon. "Flood stage" is a somewhat arbitrary term that the National Weather Service says is the point when "water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property, or commerce."

When river levels exceed flood stage by several feet, serious problems can occur. Just days ago, the Mississippi was well below flood stage. Forecasters now expect it to climb up to 12 feet above flood stage at some spots in Missouri and Illinois.

Already, high water has closed hundreds of roads and swamped hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland as planting season approaches. Transportation officials are planning to close the bridge at Louisiana, Mo. — about 75 miles north of St. Louis — at noon Saturday, citing rising water on the eastern approach.

After the devastating Mississippi River floods of 1993, the government bought out thousands of homes that were once in harm's way, tore them down and replaced them with green space where development is not allowed. New and bigger levees have been built, and flood walls reinforced.

Clarksville, Mo., is one of the few places at the mercy of the river. The quaint community of 442 filled with century-old historic homes has no flood wall or levee. But in 2008, it purchased a flood protection system that allows for a levee to be constructed — aluminum slats filled with sand — if the river rises.

The waters have risen too quickly to install the system this time, so volunteers are using gravel, plastic overlay and sandbags to protect the business district, and they're layering sandbags around threatened homes, the American Legion hall and the Catholic church.

"This just shocked us all because it just came up so quickly," alderwoman Sue Lindemann said. "We found out about the crest prediction Wednesday and we started sandbagging that night. It's going to be touch and go but we're hoping."

Lindemann said Clarksville has opted against a levee or flood wall partly because of the cost, and partly because residents like the view.

Also unprotected is Grafton, Ill., a tourist town near St. Louis that sits at the convergence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. But flooding happens so often there that people are taking it in stride.

"If you live here, you understand the river," Mayor Tom Thompson said. "We'll get through this."

The main thoroughfare leading into town — the Great River Road — was expected to be closed off by midday Saturday, and riverside merchants were clearing out merchandise. Among them was Laurie Wild, 51, who scrambled with volunteers to save her artisan shop's wares — jewelry, pottery, textiles and wood carvings.

"It's a mess," the St. Louis transplant said. "We knew what we were getting into when we moved here. It's a beautiful town, and we'll be here after."

On Friday afternoon, the Army Corps of Engineers said most of the locks and dams from the Quad Cities to near St. Louis were closed due to the flood, effectively halting barge and other traffic on that part of the Mississippi. Four Illinois River locks were also shut down.

Widespread flash-flooding accompanied the week's rains. An 80-year-old woman died in De Soto, Mo., about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis, when a creek flooded a street and swept away her car.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency because of "rapidly rising rivers" and activated the Missouri National Guard for deployment to threatened Mississippi River towns.

And in Michigan, Midland County Sheriff Scott Stephenson said a "major" rupture emerged in the Kawkawlin Dam, a 12-foot breach sending water through the structure. There were no reports of injuries.

___

Associated Press reporters Don Babwin, Jason Keyser and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas: Gay-marriage ban best for children

    Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships,” the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

    Dating is hard.

    July 29, 2014

  • Abortion-Mississippi_Hass.jpg U.S. appeals court blocks Mississippi abortion law

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Court: Virginia marriage is for all lovers

    “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

    July 28, 2014

  • Sierra Leone West Af_Brac-1.jpg New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare

    Patrick Sawyer’s death on Friday has led to tighter screening of airline passengers in West Africa, where an unprecedented outbreak that emerged in March has killed more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

Featured Ads