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Missouri towns wait for rivers to crest

Friday, June 13, 2008 | 8:18 p.m. CDT; updated 5:10 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HANNIBAL — In the northeast Missouri towns along the Mississippi River, next week’s near-record crests are one big waiting game.

On Friday, Bill Holstine, a carrier for the Hannibal Courier-Post newspaper, was sitting in a shelter off a park along the Mississippi smoking a cigarette.

“I’m just looking, just watching,” Holstine, 46, said. “I’ve seen it rise about 2 inches in the past hour.”

He said he wasn’t overly concerned that the city faced anything dire. “They seem to make too much of it, but you’ve got to look what’s going on up north and there’s a lot more water coming down,” he said.

“ ... when God and Mother Nature get together it’s kind of hard to tell what’s going to happen. This is the Mighty Mississippi.”

Mississippi River towns north of St. Louis are bracing for crests next week that should come very close to records set in the Great Flood of 1993. And at one location, Federal Locks and Dam No. 22 in Saverton, south of Hannibal, the crest will exceed the record level set in ‘93, the National Weather Service said.

The river at Hannibal is expected to reach 31.7 feet on June 20, a tenth of a foot shy of the old record of 31.8 feet set in 1993.

Other projected river crests in northeast Missouri are just as close to the ‘93 record:

• 26.6 feet in Canton on June 20. The record is 27.8 feet.

• 37.2 feet in Clarksville on June 21. The record is 37.5 feet.

• 39.0 feet in Winfield on June 23. The record is 39.6 feet.

• 32 feet in Quincy, Ill., on June 19. The record is 32.1 feet.

• 31.0 feet in Grafton, Ill., on June 22. The record is 38.1 feet.

The river at St. Louis is expected to crest at 39.6 feet on June 20, 10 feet lower than the 49.5 feet record set in 1993.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kramper said rainfall in Iowa of 2 to 6 inches since Wednesday is blamed on higher river crests than what was earlier predicted. Most of Missouri and Iowa should be rain-free next week.

Most of Quincy, Ill., is on a bluff so it should be in good shape. But its water plant and industrial section are at risk of flooding on lower ground, Kramper said.

Canton’s levee protects to 27.5 feet and with a crest of 26.6 feet, the town will have a little wiggle room, Kramper said.

Clarksville faces a potentially serious problem and has been working feverishly to fill sandbags. The town of Foley also is in danger.

In Hannibal, the flood walls are down, and the marina has cleared out. And in Canton and other Missouri communities, volunteers are doing some proactive sandbagging.

The State Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have distributed 900,000 sandbags to communities at risk of flooding in northeast and northwest Missouri.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Friday called for volunteers to fill sandbags in towns at risk of flooding in northeast Missouri. He also urged citizens who need help to call 211 for disaster information and referrals.

The corps said it is dispatching flood-fight experts to work with levee districts north of St. Louis. The corps also said it would close Locks 24 and 25 at Clarksville and Winfield on Saturday and Sunday, a day ahead of schedule, because of the growing swell of water southward.

In Canton, a town of 2,500 residents and home to Culver-Stockton College, crews including many teenagers hustled to erect a stretch of plywood fencing atop the levee that extends the earthen berm’s height by an additional 2 feet.

The 45-year-old levee can handle water rising up to 27.5 feet, said Jeff McReynolds, Canton’s city emergency management director and fire chief.

He said the levee held back the flood waters of 1993.

“This is proactive,” McReynolds said. “We’ve got a good head start.

“I’m confident we can accomplish the task we accomplished in 1993. We’ll just deal with what Mother Nature gives us.”

Associated Press reporter Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis contributed to this story.


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