Northeast Mo. struggles with new floods

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- Flooding woes aren't over yet in parts of northeast Missouri, where a manmade lake closed to boaters Tuesday and dozens of people living along a river below it did not return home due to high-water worries.

There were also scattered reports of water-logged homes, damaged bridges and impassable roads tied to heavy rainfall in recent days.

On Tuesday, Mary Treat and her family were waiting for the Salt River to go down so they could salvage belongings from their flooded home just outside of the community of Paris in Monroe County.

The Treats got their goats and dogs to safety Friday, but were unable to save about two dozen rabbits -- raised as their daughters' 4-H project -- before the river's current became too swift. They also feared quilts sewn by Treat's mother and family photographs were destroyed by the waters.

"The river was up, but we didn't know it was going to come into the yard and flood us so fast," said Treat, 50.

Miles downstream, at the Mark Twain Lake in Monroe and Ralls counties, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued to release water into the Salt River to drop the lake's elevation, already at an all-time high and near capacity.

New storm predictions Tuesday afternoon could make larger water releases at the Clarence Cannon Dam necessary, the corps said. Weather associated with Hurricane Dolly could produce heavy rains near the lake.

That could make it necessary to release up to 78,000 cubic feet per second of water from Mark Twain Lake to the river. Releases above 12,000 cubic feet per second at the dam are unprecedented.

The corps said it planned to close the lake Tuesday evening to boaters as a safety precaution, because the lake was at a record elevation of 639.9 feet. Recreation areas affected by flooding had also closed near the lake.

The Missouri State Water Patrol said it would remove any boats attempting to operate on the lake beginning Wednesday. "These measures are necessary to protect life and prevent property damage," the Patrol said in a statement.

The Cannon dam was "performing as designed," corps spokesman George Stringham said. But several dozen residents along the river in Ralls County remained out of their homes during the water releases, after being asked to evacuate due to flooding concerns. The area is about 120 miles northwest of St. Louis.

Monroe County Presiding Commissioner Donald Simpson estimated about 20 families had been affected by flooding since the start of heavy rains Thursday. A group of residents who had been living in senior housing in Paris had to be relocated after their homes flooded early Saturday.

Dozens of roads had been shut down and dozens of bridges damaged. "We have three bridges we can't even see to know if they're still there," he said.

In Kirksville in Adair County, police chief Jim Hughes said by Tuesday the community was mainly experiencing wet basements and other nuisance flooding from recent rains. He estimated Thursday into Friday that as much as 10 inches of rain fell, resulting in multiple water rescues of drivers on roads. Even more rain had fallen since then.

A dam that forms a lake at a Kirksville country club had to be checked out but was found to be sound. "We even had 4 inches of rain in the basement of the police department," he said.

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