Keeping watch on water

Friday, April 4, 2008
KAREN GRAYSON ~ Submitted photo Quarter-size hail covered a vehicle while falling Thursday afternoon in Jackson.
KAREN GRAYSON ~ Submitted photo Quarter-size hail covered a vehicle while falling Thursday afternoon in Jackson.

Residents of low-lying areas were keeping watch over creeks and drainage basins early Thursday evening as waves of rain, at times dropping as much as two-thirds of an inch in an hour, repeatedly ran over saturated ground in Southeast Missouri.

Many are still cleaning up from floods that struck the area in the aftermath of a record-setting rainstorm March 18 and 19. They remember the swift rise of waters that cut roads and forced them from their homes in all-terrain vehicles, boats and helicopters.

"The Diversion Channel is bank full, and it is out in a few places," said Erie Foster, chairman of the village board in Allenville.

By 10 p.m. Thursday, 2.49 inches of rain had fallen at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport since midnight Wednesday. A large storm stretching back to Branson, Mo., was moving into the area and flash flood warnings were in effect for Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Perry, Scott and Stoddard counties in Southeast Missouri as well as Alexander, Union, Pulaski and Perry counties in Southern Illinois.

The Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau was 35.58 feet at 10 p.m., 3.58 feet above flood stage. The high river is a big concern for families and property owners along the Diversion Channel; the river is 10 feet higher than it was when the heavy rains hit March 18.

"We can handle a lot of water down here," Foster said. "The only thing that concerns me is the height of the Diversion Channel."

By late afternoon, Gov. Matt Blunt announced that a center to help local governments respond to flood emergencies was set up in Sikeston. The center is staffed by the Missouri State Water Patrol, Missouri State Highway Patrol, State Emergency Management Agency and others, as well as volunteer organizations like the American Red Cross.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com A panel on the Mississippi River Tales mural depicting the great flood of 1927 was reflected on Water Street as it rained Thursday afternoon in downtown Cape Girardeau. The flood resulted in the Jadwin Plan, which developed levees and walls on both sides of the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau to the Gulf of Mexico.
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com A panel on the Mississippi River Tales mural depicting the great flood of 1927 was reflected on Water Street as it rained Thursday afternoon in downtown Cape Girardeau. The flood resulted in the Jadwin Plan, which developed levees and walls on both sides of the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau to the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be helping those state agencies with flooding response in Missouri, Blunt said in a news release.

As of 7 p.m., only a few roads had been closed because of high water. A heavy band of showers that moved through Southeast Missouri between 3 and 5 p.m. dropped hailstones in Jackson and sent water over Interstate 55 south of Scott City, emergency officials reported.

The Scott County Sheriff's Department notified the Missouri Department of Transportation of the flooded interstate, said Jordan Heisserer, a dispatcher with the department. Other state highways in the county also were having flooding problems. Heisserer had no reports on the condition of county roads as of 4:45 p.m.

In Bollinger County, one of the areas hit hardest by last month's rainstorm, the situation was under control, but officials are anxiously watching more storms to the west, emergency operations coordinator Jim Bollinger said. "Right now we are still holding our own. It is what is out west that has got me concerned. That looks like a lot of rain."

Radar estimates from the National Weather Service show that about an inch of rain had fallen since 9:30 p.m. Wednesday across a large area from Mount Vernon, Ill., west and south to Farmington, Mo., and Poplar Bluff, Mo., as well as across most of the Bootheel, northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky. A narrow, heavier band, with the potential for up to 3 inches of rain, stretched from Poplar Bluff to Pulaski County, Ill.

Sheriff's departments in Alexander and Union counties reported no significant flooding problems by midafternoon.

Most of the 100 residents of Allenville are back in their homes, except for about 10 to 12 families whose residences are too damaged, Foster said. Along with relying on official channels, he said he's been in contact with friends in Marble Hill, Mo., and Zalma, Mo., for warnings in case Crooked Creek or the Castor River become engorged.

In Dutchtown, while some businesses have begun to return to a semblance of normalcy, most of the families forced from their homes in March have not returned because the flood damage was too great, town clerk Doyle Parmer said. And the businesses are only about 25 percent restored to their former status, he said.

"There is nobody in town," he said. "You have one, two, maybe three of the 15 residents have been able to move back."

Parmer said he would keep watch on the Diversion Channel and be ready to leave if floodwaters rose.

In Allenville, everyone senses that floodwaters could come in a hurry overnight, Foster said. "Everybody is a little scared," he said.

Bridget DiCosmo and Matt Sanders of the Southeast Missourian contributed to this report.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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