Flood crests less than expected

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | 1:30 p.m. CDT; updated 4:31 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ST. LOUIS — With flood crests now expected to be below earlier projections, several Missouri communities are breathing easier. Still, problems persisted on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service lowered predicted crests at St. Louis and other communities by 2 to 6 feet. Significant flooding was happening nevertheless along parts of the Missouri, Mississippi, the Meramec, the North, the Moreau and the Grand.

"We've got a lot of high water on a lot of rivers, and it's causing backup on the tributaries and the creeks," said Susie Stonner, spokeswoman for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.

The remnants of Hurricane Ike brought heavy rain and high winds to the state over the weekend, causing rivers to swell. Four deaths have been blamed on the weather — three in the St. Louis area and one in Columbia. Flash floods also temporarily displaced an estimated 720 families in St. Louis County alone.

Residents of a neighborhood in St. Peters are still cleaning up after the storm caused sewage to back up into their basements. And in Silex, residents were still drying out after the swift-rising Cuivre River caused damage to 90 homes.

The Meramec River has risen above flood stage three times since March. Forecasters now think the Meramec will crest at 36 feet in Arnold on Thursday — 6 feet below earlier projections but still 12 feet above flood stage. A sandbag wall protecting several homes was put up in March and never taken down. It is expected to hold back the water again.

The Missouri River was above flood stage but falling at Boonville, Jefferson City, Hermann and Washington. It was expected to crest about 8 feet above flood stage on Thursday at St. Charles.

Dozens of state highways remained closed Wednesday, including several sections of Route 94 between Jefferson City and St. Charles.

The Mississippi was a few feet above flood stage from Hannibal south through Chester, Ill. The President Casino remained closed at St. Louis because of high water. The river is cresting Thursday and Friday at most towns and on Saturday at Cape Girardeau, where it is expected to reach 10 feet above flood stage. Cape Girardeau is protected by a flood wall and damage is expected to be minimal.

AmerenUE, originally dealing with more than 80,000 outages after the storms, had power restored to all but 1,100 homes by Wednesday. Nearly all of the outages were in the Charleston area of southeast Missouri.

Stonner said state officials haven't yet begun to assess damage from the latest round of flooding. She said the latest flood could not be added to disaster declarations from the major flood that hit the Midwest earlier this summer.

It will be up to Gov. Matt Blunt to decide if another disaster declaration will be sought. Stonner said the governor will make that decision once damage assessments are complete.

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