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One week later, improvement seen in flooded Winfield

Saturday, July 5, 2008 | 5:09 p.m. CDT; updated 5:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WINFIELD — A week after the Mississippi River broke through the Pin Oak levee and began inundating this northeast Missouri town, signs that the worst is over are everywhere.

Except in a few spots, the Mississippi is no longer overtopping the remnants of the levee as the water flows slowly back to its original river bed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday, based on a tour of the town.

At Cap Au Gris, south of Winfield, the floodwaters eddied into the Mississippi with the sound of a fast-moving stream.

Winfield-Foley Fire Department Lt. Cory Swafford said he sees improvements every day.

“By the way the water is going down, it looks like it’s going to be pretty quick,” Swafford said.

Dennis Carver, chief logistics officer for the Lincoln County Emergency Operations Center, toured the town by boat, getting his first look at the futility of the effort to hold off the river with sandbags he helped coordinate.

Following days of holding back floodwaters, the Pin Oak levee collapsed on June 27. Emergency crews and National Guard members built a second line of sandbags to keep the river back, but that too failed on June 28, forcing officials to evacuate and abandon around 100 homes.

“I’m proud of what we did out here,” Carver said. “We held the water out of there for 14 days. We gave people 14 days to get out of there. It’s disappointing, but I guess we all knew we weren’t in control.”

But touring the water-ravaged town showed the massive amount of work still to be done.

Near the river banks, power lines dipped perilously close to the water. Homes near the river, even those on stilts, appeared to have suffered major damage.

Various debris, including plastic bottles, a soccer ball and a half-sunken motorboat, floated everywhere.

In some places, the water is still almost 8 feet deep.

Carver looked at the devastation and considered the outcome had burrowing animals not undermined the Pin Oak levee, as many believe.

“You can’t help but wonder what would have happened if it wasn’t for that muskrat hole,” he said. “But there’s more honor in striking out swinging than letting the ball go by. Hopefully, we’ll remember the fight better than we’ll remember the loss.”


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