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Missouri on lookout for more flooding

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 4:30 p.m. CDT

ARNOLD — Flood-weary Missouri towns along the Mississippi, Missouri, Meramec and other rivers on Monday were preparing for yet another round of rising water after torrential weekend rains.

The remnants of Hurricane Ike brought high winds and reports of up to 7 inches of rain to parts of the state. At least four deaths have been blamed on the weather. Flash flooding affected traffic on several St. Louis area interstate highways on Sunday and shut down dozens of roads in southern and eastern Missouri. Several residents in St. Louis city and county had to be evacuated.

Now, just as in March and early summer, attention turns to rising rivers.

Just over two months after near-record flooding along the Mississippi, the National Weather Service is projecting moderate flooding from Hannibal south to the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Major flooding is expected from St. Louis south to Cape Girardeau, though thanks to levees and buyouts, few homes are expected to be affected.

The Missouri River is expected to rise well above flood stage at several towns - Jefferson City, Gasconade, Hermann, Washington and St. Charles. And the Meramec, hit especially hard by March flooding, is rising again, with Arnold expected to see a crest 18 feet above flood stage on Wednesday.

Fortunately for Arnold, the sandbag walls constructed when the March flood threatened the Jefferson County community remain. Those sandbags protect several homes and should hold up for the coming flood, City Manager Matthew Unrein said.

"The homeowners who have suffered realized that once the earth gets saturated, it remains in a flood-prone condition until the next season," Unrein said. "The old-timers knew it was wise to leave the sandbags."

In St. Charles, the Missouri is expected to reach 11.5 feet above flood stage, also on Wednesday. The Weather Service projects the flood will endanger at least seven private levees, though they protect mostly farmland.

The Mississippi and Missouri rivers converge near St. Charles, and St. Charles County emergency management spokesman John Sonderegger said there is particular concern about private levees along the Mississippi that were saturated by the summer flood.

"They were put to the test in June - they might have to be shored up," he said.

In Hermann, the Missouri is expected to crest 11.5 feet above flood stage on Thursday. If it does, 37,000 acres of farmland would be under water, and water would be creeping near a grocery store and an auto dealership.

Sections of the Katy Trail will likely be under water from Jefferson City east to St. Charles County by the time the Missouri crests.

The latest flooding could be short-lived. The Weather Service forecasts mostly sunny weather for the next 10 days.

Much of the state on Monday was still recovering from the severe weather over the weekend. Nearly 200 state roads were closed along with hundreds of lesser roadways. AmerenUE restored power to more than 75,000 Missouri customers, but about 9,000 still were without electricity.

Three deaths in the St. Louis area and a fourth in Columbia were blamed on the weather.

Joan Dankner, 49, of Ladue, was struck by a tree limb that fell during the storm. And in University City, a flash flood was believed to have killed Willie Johnson, 81, and Louise Bryant, 64. Her body was retrieved by barge operators near where the Mississippi and River Des Peres rivers meet.

In Columbia, 21-year-old Michelle Runkle is believed to have drowned in Hominy Creek after going into the rising water early Sunday to help a man whose car had been swept away.

 


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