Swollen Mississippi defeats another Missouri levee

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

WINFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The swollen Mississippi River burst through yet another levee Tuesday, a reminder the flooding crisis that has besieged the Midwest has yet to completely pass.

But the new break was expected to swamp only a soccer field and a sod farm on the north side of St. Charles. Initial reports suggested the water would threaten a nearby mobile home park, but St. Charles Assistant Fire Chief Rich Oney said Tuesday morning residents there should stay dry and would not be evacuated.

The flooding from the Elm Point levee break will come close to only two homes, he said, and the residents of both have decided to stay put. There is no threat of flooding along nearby Missouri 370, a major highway running through suburban St. Charles County.

The break comes along the stretch of the Mississippi northwest of St. Louis that is forecast to start cresting Tuesday and run at that high water mark for a few more days.

The constant pressure of the river running at crest level remains the primary concern in Lincoln County, a short ways up river from Tuesday's break. Officials there are using plastic sheeting and tens of thousands of sandbags to fortify the 2-mile-long Pin Oak levee, a saturated earthen berm that officials have taken to comparing to a waterbed.

"It is still holding at this point," said Dennis Gage, the deputy director of emergency management in Lincoln County.

Federal officials have said they couldn't be sure the levee would survive through the end of the river's crest at Winfield, expected sometime late Thursday. If it breaks, the river will swamp 100 homes in east Winfield, as well as 3,000 acres of farm fields, several businesses and a city ballpark.

"They have a serious condition on their hands," Travis Tutka, the Army Corps' chief of dam safety, said Monday. "This will be quite a test of that levee."

Only a handful of residents remained in east Winfield after emergency workers went door to door urging them to evacuate. Among the holdouts was Sherman Jones, 56, who was all alone in his house except for his dogs, Mugsy and Junior.

"There is no place to go but the high school. I am not going to leave 'til my feet are wet," Jones said. "It's been a rough year, but we'll get through it."

In nearby Foley, Gage said Tuesday the higher, west side of town now has a foot of water, following the river's Sunday topping of the Sandy Creek levee. The east side of the town of a few hundred was already submerged.

The river was continuing to slowly fall from Canton, not far from the Iowa border, through Quincy, Ill., Hannibal and Saverton, Mo. Farther south, the Nation Weather Service said the river wouldn't begin to recede at St. Louis — where there is flooding, but none that is significant — through Thursday night.


Associated Press writers Betsy Taylor in St. Louis and Jim Salter in Clarksville contributed to this report.

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