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Forecasters Predict Lower Water Levels For Mississippi River Towns

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

Weather forecasters are predicting slow relief for Missouri and Illinois towns battling floods. 

A number of towns situated along the Mississippi River have been dealing with rising waters over the past few days. The northeast Missouri town of Clarksville is experiencing its sixth flood in the past decade, while roads around Grafton, Illinois, are also under water.

Speaking Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air, Mark Fuchs of the National Weather Service said the river is nearly at its crest around Clarksville. He also said crests have already taken place in Missouri cities such as Hannibal and Louisiana.

While Fuchs said there’s more rain in the offing, he added “none of that numerically predicted rainfall appears to be heavy enough to send the river back up.”

“There could be a slowing down of the recession or a flattening out of the river over a day or two,” Fuchs said. “But I don’t see any rain in the offing that would introduce a second crest, so to speak.”

But the flooding is still having an impact on Grafton. Joseph Monroe of the Illinois Department of Transportation said a portion of Illinois Route 100 is closed. He also said Brussels Ferry is shut down.

Monroe said he anticipates the highway will be closed anywhere from a week to 10 days. He said drivers who typically use Illinois Route 100 should take a detour of Illinois Route 3 to Illinois Route 109 to Illinois Route 16.

“The river is still rising in that area,” Monroe said. “We have probably five city blocks which are completely underwater and another two or three that have intermittent water across Illinois 100 in that town.”

“Holding out”

Clarksville gained some attention when the town board opted not to pay for flood preparation or cleanup. That doesn’t mean the city has been without state or private sector help, but it did spur some businesses and residents to build up flood defenses themselves.

During his appearance on St. Louis on the Air, Matt Hunn of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that volunteers with AmeriCorps helped fill sandbags. He also said his agency is providing “technical support,” as well as “sandbags and sheeting when they need it.”

Kathy Weiss, Clarksville’s emergency management coordinator, said on Tuesday that the town was expected to get some more sand today in case the crest forecast changes. The river around Clarksville is currently expected to crest at 35 feet, which is 10 feet above flood level.

She said the town’s residents and businesses were using a variety of barriers to protect against the flood, including sandbags, rocks and highway barriers. 

"So far, we’re holding out,” Weiss said. "And it looks pretty good." 

Hunn said this year’s round of floods have been “manageable,” especially since state and local agencies have been prepared. He added though that if people’s “houses are getting wet, this is obviously a major event for them.”

“Managing risk is not a one-time event,” Hunn said. “Nobody wants to talk to us until there’s something bad happening. But there’s a lot of people behind the scenes – city, county and state emergency managers – that are working year-round to manage that risk and be prepared for it. Because we’ve had so many floods in recent years, there’s a lot of people that are prepared.”

Fuchs said some of the flood crests that his agency is currently seeing in northeast Missouri  and west central Illinois are “in the top four or five or six floods that we’ve ever had recorded in many of these locations.”

“So they are big floods,” Fuchs said. “We’ve had bigger floods in the recent past. We had a bigger flood last year, 2013 in June and in April. We had a big flood in 2011. We had a big flood in 2008. So we’re kind of used to this. And this doesn’t quite measure up to what we’ve had in the not too distant past, we are ready for the most part.”

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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