Area highways reopen as floodwaters drain

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Submerged highways finally started reopening Friday as flash flood water drained downstream, but residents in many places were keeping an eye on the rising Mississippi River.

The prediction for the Sunday crest of 44.5 feet at Cape Girardeau remained firm, prompting warnings from city officials to residents in low-lying areas of the Red Star neighborhood to secure their belongings and be prepared to leave their homes if necessary. At 8 p.m. Friday, the gauge reading was 40.32 feet.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, whose entire district has been declared a federal disaster area, took off early Friday for an aerial tour of flooded counties. She was escorted by Col. Lewis Setliff, commander of the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal disaster declaration, Emerson said, will provide help for state and local governments, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations that have been in the field since Tuesday providing succor to displaced people and open the door for additional aid to repair public property and aid in the recovery of residents and businesses.

The Mississippi River won't stay up long, Setliff said, so the main danger for residents will be the height of the flood, not its duration. When water stays on levees for weeks, as it did in 1993, soaked levees are much more likely to give way, he said.

Highways reopened to the public Friday included Highway 25 between Dutchtown and Gordonville and Highway 74 between Interstate 55 and Highway 25. The Missouri Department of Transportation reported at 3:30 p.m. that parts of 48 state roads remained closed due to flooding in a 13-county area in Southeast Missouri.

Highway 53 in Poplar Bluff, Mo., was reopened, as was Highway 60 at the Black River crossing. People were being sheltered in the Black River Coliseum.

The Corps of Engineers closed some recreational areas and boat ramps at Wappapello Lake due to rising waters, including People's Creek Boat Ramp, Rockwood Point Boat Ramp, Greenville Recreation Area, Greenville Campground, sundowner Boat Ramp and Possum Creek Boat Ramp. Route D will remain open.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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