Volunteers needed to help town prepare for floods

Monday, June 16, 2008 | 1:19 p.m. CDT; updated 10:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CANTON — On Monday, the city of Canton asked for more volunteers to help them prepare for flooding, with the Mississippi River predicted to crest at record levels later in the week.

Canton emergency management director Jeff McReynolds said volunteers were urgently needed to build up Canton’s levee. He said more than 1,100 volunteers showed up over the weekend, but a city spokesman said that number dropped to about 300 on Monday.

“Today and tomorrow, we’ll need as many as we can get,” said Canton spokesman Brian Nickerson.

Residents who were evacuating voluntarily were urged to come to a temporary shelter on the Culver-Stockton College campus.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder asked President Bush to expedite a disaster declaration to help the state deal with record flooding along the Mississippi River.

With Gov. Matt Blunt out of the state, Kinder has deployed 15 more National Guard members to help manage relief efforts in West Quincy. In a written statement, Kinder asked Bush for “swift action as we move more National Guard members into areas where flooding looks inevitable.”

In tiny Alexandria in far northeast Missouri, all residents were told to get out by Monday. Officials said the Mississippi is expected to crest Wednesday at 29 feet — a foot higher than 1993 levels and probably too much for the levee to withstand.

Sandbaggers, including prison inmates, have been fortifying levees in Hannibal, Canton, Clarksville and other riverside communities where cresting is expected mid- to late-week.

Nearly 150 offenders from prisons throughout Missouri have been helping with sandbagging efforts since the weekend.

Crews of offenders and correctional officers came from institutions in Boonville, Algoa, Moberly, Pacific, Fulton and Vandalia.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Hauswirth said 148 offenders volunteered for duty, and more are willing to help if needed. They’re working 10-hour shifts.

Attorney General Jay Nixon was among those filling sandbags in northeast Missouri.

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