More flooding concerns along Mississippi, other Midwestern rivers

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 3:41 p.m. CDT; updated 7:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ST. LOUIS — Midwestern rivers, including the Mississippi, are rising again after yet another round of heavy rain, forcing some flood-weary towns to prepare for their third significant flood since April.

Parts of North Dakota got up to 8 inches of rain Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, parts of Iowa got 7 inches of rain, and other states such as Wisconsin and Missouri were soaked as well.

The National Weather Service is projecting that the Mississippi will reach well above flood stage from Iowa south to near St. Louis.

"It does get old," said Chris Sullivan, police chief in the 700-resident tourist town of Grafton, Ill., near St. Louis. "There's really nothing you can do, and we're hoping it doesn't come anywhere near what it has in the past."

The Mississippi crested, or reached its highest peak, at 11 feet above flood stage at Grafton on April 25. Flood stage is the level at which a body of water is high enough to cause flooding. The Mississippi crested again June 4, this time 13 feet over its banks — the fourth-worst flood in the town's history.

Sullivan said Grafton has been denied federal aid. The $70,000 spent just on the April flood comes out of the city's $550,000 annual budget, and tallies from the later inundations haven't been calculated yet.

Businesses are hurting, too, he said.

"Many businesses have been closed for periods at a time. They've been under water twice and cleaned out twice," Sullivan said.

The weather service predicted flood levels generally reaching 5 to 7 feet above technical flood stage by the Fourth of July at Mississippi River towns from Iowa south through Grafton. Unprotected Grafton is an exception: Most towns have levees or have cleared out the flood plain over the past 20 years, so no significant damage was expected.

The Mississippi was expected to rise but remain below flood stage from St. Louis to the south.

Smaller rivers are flooding in the upper Midwest. Fargo, N.D., is taking precautions along the Red River, which is expected to reach 30 feet on Thursday — 12 feet above flood stage.

A bridge is closed and sandbagging is occurring downtown near Fargo City Hall. Parks, campgrounds and golf courses are already under water. Flash floods were also a problem after the city got 4 inches of rain overnight, prompting a handful of water rescues.

The good news in Fargo was that the flood wasn't expected to stick around for long.

"We could be fine by Friday," city engineer April Walker said.

The Wapsipinicon River in Iowa could reach a record level 10 feet or more above flood stage at the small town of Independence, one of many northern Iowa towns pelted by rain.

A Code Red alert issued about 1 a.m. Wednesday warned residents near the river of the potential for high water.

"They said, 'Move, We're not kidding,' and I took it seriously," said Cheryl Smith, who rents a duplex near the river.

Southern Wisconsin was also facing flood threats after heavy rain soaked the southern part of the state.

The southwestern Wisconsin town of Boscobel has received more than a foot of rain since Friday. Hundreds of homes in Grant County have been damaged by flood water. Emergency management officials say one house in Crawford County was destroyed by flooding and three have major damage.

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