More rain, snow could lead to more flooding
Grafton, Ill. • The Mississippi River started its slow decline at some problematic spots Monday, but the spring flood is far from over.
The Mississippi and countless other Midwestern rivers were still significantly above flood stage, spurred by heavy rain last week. Levee breaks caused problems in Indiana, and floodwaters flirted with the Michigan State University campus.
Flooding is blamed in three deaths and could be responsible for two more. A woman last seen stranded along a flooded bridge was missing in Illinois, and a boy was in critical condition after being pulled from a river in Missouri.
The Mississippi River was at or near crest at several places Sunday between the Quad Cities and near St. Louis. Some towns in the approximate 100-mile stretch of river from Quincy, Ill., to Grafton, Ill., reached 10-12 feet above flood stage.
Adding to concern is the forecast of an inch of rain Monday night into Tuesday over much of the Midwest. National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said the new rain could bump up the Mississippi River up to a foot from Clarksville, Mo., to points south.
"The level of concern is high," Fuchs said. "It does look like we're going to see a bit of a bump up from this rainfall event."
The current flooding is bad enough. In scenic Grafton, a small tourist town 40 miles north of St. Louis, floodwater 3 inches deep seeped into the basement of Pam and Dennis Bick's home where they've lived for four decades.
"We have time to figure out what to do, where we would go and where we would put everything," Pam Bick, 57, said. "I don't want it to come up any more. But I can't stop it."
Spots south of St. Louis aren't expected to crest until late this week, and significant flooding is possible in places like Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Cairo, Ill.
To the north, the snow hasn't stopped in Minnesota and the Dakotas, and flood watchers along both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers know once that snow record levels in some cases melts, a lot of it ends up in the big rivers.
But AccuWeather meteorologist Alan Reppert said the timing of the snow melt could be fortuitous: It may stay cold long enough to the north to make for a gradual melt that occurs after the current flood level goes down.
Of greater concern, he said, is the Red River in North Dakota, which could see significant flooding in the coming weeks. Sandbagging was beginning this week in Fargo and Cass County to prepare for possibly record amounts of high water.
Sandbagging had all but stopped in Clarksville, Mo., on Sunday, evidence of the confidence in the makeshift sandbag levee hurriedly erected to protect downtown. The river was expected to rise to 11 feet above flood stage a somewhat arbitrary term the National Weather Service defines as the point when "water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property or commerce" before cresting Monday.
"We believe we'll have a successful conclusion," said Jo Anne Smiley, longtime mayor of the 442-resident hamlet.
Last week's downpours brought on sudden flooding throughout the Midwest, and high water is blamed for at least three deaths.
Authorities in LaSalle, Ill., were searching for a missing woman after her van was found near the Shippingsport Bridge over the flooded Illinois River. A pilot alerted authorities Friday after seeing a person stranded near a van in water near the bridge.
In Leadwood, Mo., about 65 miles south of St. Louis, a 12-year-old boy was swept into the flooding Big River as he tried to walk across a flooded bridge. Robert Salsberry jumped in to save him.
"I chased him down the river and he was just floating lifelessly," Salsberry told the Park Hills Daily Journal. "I dragged him to a little island inside the river and I gave him CPR. His face was all blue, and I gave him CPR and brought him back to life."
Two Wabash River levees failed in southwestern Indiana. A breach about 3 a.m. Monday near Prairieton, Ind., flooded farmland. About two dozen homes were high enough to stay out of the water but became reachable only by boat. The other levee failure, in Dresser, near Terre Haute, pushed water into the basements of a few homes.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., the Grand River crested Sunday at a record 21.85 feet, driving hundreds of people from their homes and flooding parts of downtown.
At East Lansing, Mich., the Red Cedar River flooded parts of the Michigan State University campus, leaving some athletic fields waterlogged.
Spots south of St. Louis aren't expected to crest until late this week, and significant flooding is possible in places like Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Cairo, Ill. On Monday, flood warnings were issued for Kentucky and Tennessee, but officials say the high water shouldn't make a significant impact.
Residents of tiny Dutchtown, Mo., south of Cape Girardeau, were filling thousands of sandbags to protect their homes.
"We've had our houses under water more than once out here," town board chairman Bud Smith told the Southeast Missourian. "We're trying to get a buyout, but you know how slow the government moves."
Elsewhere, smaller rivers were continuing to cause big problems.
The flooding also created some odd scenes. In Fox Lake, Ill., carp from the swollen Fox River were seen swimming on driveways.
And near St. Louis, all 114 barges that broke loose over the weekend were accounted for. U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said 11 sank and the river will remain closed over a 15-mile stretch out of safety concerns. It wasn't clear when the river would be allowed to reopen.