Mississippi River still expected to crest at 44.5 feet despite lower than expected flows in northern rivers

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau is still expected to crest at 44.5 feet Sunday despite levels being lower than expected north of the region.

"The Kaskaskia, Big Muddy, and Meramec rivers all three are swollen right now and are large contributors to the lower river," said Nicole Dalrymple, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We recommend folks keep an eye on the forecast."

In St. Louis, the Mississippi River levels hit flood stage at 30 feet Thursday morning. Recreational boaters are being restricted in the Saint Louis metro area, but not farther south.

Dalrymple said the Coast Guard posted an advisory for all boats to be cautious of debris in the river and to be vigilant especially around bridges.

Members of the Corp are focused on Kaskaskia Island, Ill., and Southern Illinois, providing technical assistance. "Levees on that side of the river are in most cases agricultural, which offer a lower level of flood protection," she said.

According to a news release from the corp., 199,000 sandbags and 150 rolls of plastic sheeting were distributed to county emergency officials.

The Broadway floodgate was closed shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, shutting off downtown from the Mississippi River as it neared 38 feet on the gauge.

The river was nearly 6 feet above flood stage and predicted to rise more than 6 feet more before cresting Sunday. The flood, spawned by a history-making rainstorm that covered large stretches of Missouri and Illinois in 10 inches ore more of rain, could produce one of the top 10 gauge readings in Cape Girardeau history.

Two employees of the Downtown Levee District, Gordon Mogan and Dave Puchbauer, used a 1980s vintage Chevrolet pickup truck and a lot of muscle power to close the heavy iron gate.

The closing leaves just one opening in the levees and floodwalls that protect downtown Cape Girardeau. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad closed their gate at Sloan Creek late on Wednesday, while the Downtown Levee District closed the gate at Themis Street early Wednesday morning.

Crews will work today to close the Main Street flood gate, a process that will take about eight hours.

At Cape Girardeau the Mississippi River is still expected to crest at 44.5 feet on Sunday, over 12 feet above flood stage. The Ohio River at Cairo, Ill., is forecast to crest at 55 feet Tuesday, 15 feet above flood stage. The Ohio was at 49.4 feet at Cairo at 7 a.m. today, and officials there said this morning that pumps working to keep water out of the bowl between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers Cairo sits in are working correctly.

Sandbagging in Scott County

In Scott County water was rising near the Mini Farms on the south end of the county, according to a news release from the county sheriff's department. Emergency officials are assessing that situation, the release said.

The rising Mississippi has also prompted the placement of sandbags around a home in Commerce, Mo., a northern Scott County town with no protection from Mississippi flood waters. The county is asking for volunteers to fill sandbags to show up at the county jail in Benton/

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