Prediction for Mississippi River crest lowered to 41.5 feet Wednesday

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blustery winds were the only reminder Friday of a major storm that dumped 2 to 5 inches of rain Thursday from Kansas and Oklahoma to central Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The rain triggered a renewed rise in the Mississippi River, which is predicted to crest at 41.5 feet Wednesday in Cape Girardeau. That's 2.5 feet lower than the original prediction. It will be the fourth crest above flood stage in little over a month.

At that level, floodgates are closed at Themis Street, Broadway, the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe railroad at Red Star and North Main Street. At 8 p.m. Friday, the river level was 35.2 feet, a rise of more than 2 feet in 24 hours.

The Themis Street gate closed Friday afternoon and the Broadway gate will be closed today or Sunday, said Andy Juden, president of the Main Street Levee District. It is the third time the gate has been closed in the past month. "Most of the time we get it closed, open it up and that is it," Juden said. "We need a door opener on it this year."

Since the first crest slightly above flood stage at Cape Girardeau on March 9, flooding has become widespread along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Stations from Burlington, Iowa, to New Orleans are near or above flood stage. Major tributaries, including the Missouri and Ohio rivers, are also reporting high water.

If the crest prediction holds and no additional rain falls in coming days, towns along the Diversion Channel and the area immediately around Cape Girardeau should be safe from flooding.

But officials from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are ready to respond to rising water. The corps is assisting in placing a coffer dam across the levee gap at New Madrid, Mo., said Col. Thomas P. Smith, commander of the Memphis District.

The National Weather Service predicts a chance of rain today and Sunday, but forecasts do not call for any major downpours.

Since March 19, the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau has been below flood stage for 20 hours. The record crests at Cape Girardeau are 48.49 feet in August 1993 and 47 feet in May 1995.

rkeller@semmissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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