Major flooding possible on Mississippi River

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 | 11:23 a.m. CDT; updated 9:49 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

HANNIBAL — Several towns along the Mississippi River are bracing for renewed flooding that forecasters say could reach near the record levels of 1993.

Recent rains in Iowa and elsewhere to the north, combined with rains in northeast Missouri, have created a serious and potentially dangerous situation for residents in and near towns like Canton, La Grange, Hannibal, Louisiana and Clarksville in Missouri and Quincy and Grafton in Illinois, National Weather Service hydrologist Karl Sieczynski said Tuesday.

“This is major flooding,” Sieczynski said. “Stay tuned and be prepared.”

River levels at most of the towns are now just slightly above flood stage, but the river is expected to rise dramatically over the next week or two as tributaries drain into the Mississippi. Sieczynski said residents who live in flood plains near the affected towns “should be moving to higher ground already.”

Canton, about 150 miles north of St. Louis, may get the worst of it. The town of 2,500 is expected to see a crest of 26.6 feet on June 18. That’s nearly 13 feet above flood stage and just 2 feet short of 1993 levels.

Mayor Joe Clark said the top of the levee that protects all but one home in the community is at 27.5 feet — less than a foot above the projected crest. He’s confident it will hold, but a sandbagging operation is planned just to make sure.

“I would say we’re taking it in stride at this point,” Clark said. “We live with this all the time.”

Flooding is certainly a way of life along the Mississippi. The river has run high most of the spring since torrential March rains.

Hannibal’s historic downtown is protected by a flood levee that was completed in 1992, just months before the devastating Great Flood of 1993. Still, low-lying parts of town to the south are unprotected. Several homes would be flooded if the crest prediction is accurate. The town’s main ballfield, Clemens Field, would be under water. Route 79 would be shut down to the south.

The weather service expects a crest of 28.2 feet in Hannibal on June 19. That would be the third-highest ever in Mark Twain’s hometown and would reach within 3 feet of the record set in July 1993.

The crests would mean water would reach near a railroad bridge in Quincy, to Main Street in Louisiana, to Front Street in Clarksville.

Minor to moderate flooding is predicted further south on the river in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau and other communities.

Other parts of the Midwest are also seeing renewed flooding, including the area around St. Joseph in northwest Missouri.

Bill Brinton, emergency management director for Buchanan County, said thousands of acres of cropland were under water Tuesday because of flooding along the Platte and 102 rivers. But, he said, no homes had water inside. Both rivers were back in their banks Tuesday after receding overnight.

“We’re just really pretty lucky,” he said.

Luck hasn’t been so good in Canton in recent years. The town was hit by a tornado five years ago that destroyed Culver-Stockton College’s athletic complex. A downtown fire damaged several businesses in 2005. Now, more floods.

Clark said the community is resilient.

“I guess we have to be,” he said.

AP reporter Maria Fisher in Kansas City contributed to this report.

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Kristin Zychal-Teeter June 12, 2008 | 2:00 p.m.

Last summer our family visited Hannibal. The children still talk about our visit to this day. We will keep all of you in our prayers.


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