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Flood evacuations ordered in Poplar Bluff, Branson

Monday, April 25, 2011 | 12:15 p.m. CDT; updated 6:31 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 25, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF — Several hundred residents were evacuated Monday in the southeast Missouri town of Poplar Bluff as a levee along the Black River was in danger of breaking.

Emergency management director Rick Sliger wasn't sure of the specific number of residents being moved out of harm's way. There were no reports of injuries.

A shelter was set up at Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff, a town with 17,000 residents about 150 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Police said they think a "catastrophic failure" of the levee along Butler County Road 607 is imminent.

A steady stream of vehicles arrived at the Coliseum before midday, dropping off residents carrying belongings in plastic sacks. The Coliseum, normally a concert and meeting venue, overlooks the flooded Black River and a park that's already under water.

Gregory Kirk, a pastor at the United Gospel Rescue Mission in Poplar Bluff, said he got the call early Monday to prepare to feed evacuees sent to the Coliseum. He'd been up since 4 a.m. preparing food, even though one of his main suppliers was already flooded.

"We feed everybody," he said. "I'm stressed out. I've been up all night."

Evacuations on smaller scales were happening elsewhere in the state. Branson spokesman Jerry Adams said 15 people along the edge of Lake Taneycomo were moved, and the popular tourist town's camper park was also evacuated.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that rising water covered the boardwalk by the lake at Branson Landing early Monday.

Meanwhile, Table Rock Dam in southwest Missouri was preparing to open its floodgates after the lake rose almost 5 feet in the past 24 hours, lake manager Greg Oller told the News-Leader. The lake has received 10 inches of rain since Thursday, and more was on the way.

Southern Missouri has been hit hard by heavy rain over the past several days, and more rain was falling Monday. The National Weather Service predicts rain through Wednesday in the region.

Branson has had nearly 7 inches of rain over the past three days, prompting scattered evacuations. West Plains has received more than 8 inches of rain.

Dozens of roads were closed by flooding and flash flooding across the state. Several school districts in south-central and southwest Missouri canceled classes Monday because of the road closures.

Flood and flash flood warnings have been issued throughout southern and eastern Missouri. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is keeping a close eye on several levees, especially south of St. Louis.

Major flooding is predicted at several spots along the Mississippi River below the confluence with the Missouri River. The flood level at Cape Girardeau is expected to get to 12 feet above flood stage later this week, but the downtown area is protected by a flood wall and only a few businesses and homes were expected to be affected.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman George Stringham said he was not aware of any Mississippi or Missouri River levees in the state that were in imminent danger of being overtopped or broken. Water at a handful of smaller levees along the Mississippi between Clarksville and Winfield was near their tops, but the river was at or near crest in those areas and expected to begin falling.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Fuchs said a few homes also were evacuated in the northeast Missouri town of LaGrange. But the river had crested north of St. Louis.


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