Watching the water

Friday, January 14, 2005

Watching river crests along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers usually gets our attention during the spring, when heavy rains are expected and, sometimes, produce more runoff than the rivers can hold.

But area residents have begun to wonder about seeing the sun again. Except for brief periods of sunlight, clouds have been hanging over Southeast Missouri for days and days.

And those clouds have produced rains that are heavy in some areas on top of ground already saturated by the melting snow that fell in December. Flooding has been widespread throughout the Midwest, and eventually all of that moisture winds up in the two great river systems that merge at Cairo, Ill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is paying particularly close attention to the situation. It's obvious how quickly rivers can rise. In Cape Girardeau, the river recently rose several feet in a matter of hours.

The crests of both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers where they come together at Cairo are of particular concern. When one river rises higher than the other, it forms a water dam that holds back water in the other river. And when both rivers rise to flood stages at the same time, there's even more water to contend with -- and worry about.

Sunshine is forecast to return to the area today, along with seasonally cold temperatures.

In many ways, a wintery blast without precipitation is likely to be a welcome change for those who would be most affected by river flooding.

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