New Flood Worries In Some Mo. Towns

Sunday, June 22nd 2008, 8:29 am
By: News 9

Amid the battle to hold back the swollen Mississippi River, some towns got an unwelcome surprise Saturday as river levels rose higher than projected.

Recent levee breaks north of Canton had allowed the river level to drop at towns like Canton and Hannibal in northeast Missouri.

Officials knew the water would rise again to crests expected during the weekend, and while the amount of the increase caught them off guard, it did not make things any worse. The folks in Canton were keeping a tight watch over the city's levee, but it continued to hold strong against the Mississippi.

Flooding and widespread storms this month have forced thousands from their homes and inundated towns and cities along rivers in six U.S. states, killing 24 and injuring 148 since June 6.

But while the swollen Mississippi has topped or broken through levees for hundreds of miles above St. Louis, the flooding has not led to any deaths or significant injuries yet in Missouri or Illinois.

The Mississippi reached 26.3 feet Saturday morning at Canton, after dipping below 23 feet two days earlier, and was expected to crest later in the day at 26.4 feet.

That's still more than a foot lower than the record set during the Great Flood of '93, and 3 feet below the top of the city's levee.

The new Saturday morning reading was "a full foot higher than we expected it to be," said Canton emergency management spokeswoman Monica Heaton. "The levee's fine, but the river did another unexpected thing last night."

Forecasters said Saturday afternoon the river would crest several inches higher than expected in Hannibal, Missouri, and at Quincy, Illinois, where the river was set to crest late in the day more than two feet below the '93 flood.

Hannibal emergency management director John Hark said the river was well above flood stage but still about 3 feet below the record set in 1993. Before a levee break north of Hannibal in Meyer, Illinois, allowed some water to drain out of the river last week, Hannibal was expecting a crest at or near the record.

The crest was revised Saturday to 29.1 feet, set to arrive in author Mark Twain's hometown sometime Sunday morning.

"We're keeping an eye on it," he said.

Down river, near St. Louis, the latest federal forecast called for lower crests than predicted a day earlier. That was good news in hard-hit Lincoln County, where five levees had broken in the past three days.

In Foley, as in many other Missouri towns, streets and homes were deserted Saturday. Police and National Guard troops stood by to prevent looting, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

"We're here to protect people's lives and property," said Foley Police Chief Max Collier.

But at least 300 homes in Eastern Missouri have already been invaded by floodwaters, along with 40,000 acres of farmland, reports Tracy.

Mike Jones could only sit and watch as his 350 acres of corn and soybean fields drowned under several feet of water.

"Won't have to get the combine out this fall," said Jones. "Won't be harvesting anything, that's for sure."

And as other parts of the Midwest have already started recovering from the flood's havoc, people in Missouri know there is little they can do until the Mississippi gets back in line.

"We still have ponds from the 1993 flood in Eastern Lincoln County, so this water isn't going anywhere anytime soon," said Andy Binder of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.

Sandbags atop Canton's levee offer protection up to 29.5 feet, but the river had been saturating the levee for days.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller speculated that forecast models simply had been unable to account for the amount of water flowing into the Mississippi from the three rivers that saw major flooding in Iowa - the Cedar, Iowa and Des Moines rivers.

"Honestly, the models didn't do well with it because it was so far out of the range of normal," Miller said.

Miller was unaware of any levees facing renewed danger because of the river's unexpected rise, but said river towns need to be aware that the flood is a long way from over.

"Obviously any town protected by a levee is still under risk," Miller said. "The longer you have levees that have water up against them, the better the chance you have a levee being compromised."

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Says Flooding Will Cause Lasting Damage

Iowa's agricultural secretary says flooding has likely caused more than $3 billion in crop damage and will lead to higher corn prices.

Secretary Bill Northey says agricultural damage actually will be higher because the crops that remain will produce smaller yields.

Speaking yesterday on public television's "Iowa Press" program, Northey added that corn prices that have climbed above $7 a bushel also would hurt livestock operations and make ethanol production unprofitable.

Ultimately, Northey says the poor corn and soybean crop could put some of Iowa's 90,000 farmers out of business.

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