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Corps still waiting to decide on blowing levee; Cairo residents urged to leave

Friday, April 29, 2011

(Photo)
The Birds Point levee is seen on Friday, April 29, 2011 with the New Madrid Floodway, at left, and the Mississippi River floodwaters, at right.
(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
With the rivers still swelling and more rain expected, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stayed in a "holding pattern" Friday as the mayor of Cairo, Ill., issued his strongest warning yet for residents of the Southern Illinois town to seek higher ground.

Corps officials said Friday afternoon that they'd wait until a conference call Saturday morning to decide again whether to blow the levee at Birds Point, activating the New Madrid floodway, or postpone the decision.

If the decision is made to breach the levee, Corps officials say it will take about 21-24 hours to get the levee ready.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh issued his ruling Friday morning giving the Corps the go-ahead to blow a hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, but a spokeswoman for the Corps said a decision has yet to be reached.

"We're still in a holding pattern," said Mary Statum, a spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers Memphis District. "We're still watching and waiting."

The river gauge at Cairo hit 59 feet Friday morning at 9 a.m., she said, with the plan for detonating the levee set for when the river gauge reads 61. Forecasts call for Southeast Missouri to get another 1 to 3 inches of rain dumped on it, according to David Humphrey, the lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky.

A crest of 60.5 is still predicted for the Cairo gauge Sunday morning, Humphrey said, and Cape Girardeau is expected to crest at 46 Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Cairo mayor Judson Childs issued a release Friday morning "strongly urging" all senior citizens, people with medical conditions or special needs and families with children that live in single-story homes to evacuate within the next 24 hours.

As the river reaches record levels on the Cairo gauge, sand boils are continuing to develop inside Cairo and the North Cairo Drainage District, the release says. Childs worries that the sand boils will compromise the integrity of the levee system.

"This is the strongest warning short of mandatory evacuation," Childs said in the release. "I strongly encourage this evacuation order to be followed."

Community leaders in Cairo are among the strongest proponents of breaching the levee, which would divert floodwaters to about 130,000 acres of private and public property within the spillway, most of which is in Mississippi County. In his ruling, Limbaugh ruled against the State of Missouri and with the Corps of Engineers and the states of Illinois and Kentucky, which maintained the Corps had the authority to blow the levee.

(Photo)
A Cairo resident looks out over the Mississippi River from atop gate No. 8 of the levee that runs parallel to Ohio Street Tuesday, April 26, 2011 in Cairo, Ill. Mayor Judson Childs defended a controversial U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to protect his struggling town of 2,800 by intentionally breaking an upstream levee that now protects about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland.
(AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan, Steve Jahnke)
The plan was authorized by Congress by the Flood Control Act of 1928 in response to devastation created by the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. The project was designed to protect against other floods, while also safeguarding navigation in the Mississippi River.

The heart of the project is a 3,787-mile levee system, part of which is the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway. The floodway is just below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and is bounded by two levees. According to testimony Thursday, almost 60 percent of the spillway is already covered by backwater, flooding that occurs when the river downstream backs up to a 1,500-foot gap in the levee on the southern edge of the floodway.

The Corps has sent a barge containing the necessary explosives upriver from Memphis, Tenn., to Hickman, Ky. The president of the Mississippi River Commission, Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, has yet to decide whether to artificially crevasse the levee.

Landowners, largely farmers, within the spillway have said they stand to lose millions if the levee is breached. But the area that encompasses the floodway is subject to 80,892 acres of flowage easements, which means decades ago the landowners released "and held harmless" the U.S. government for any and all damages that occur as the result of the flooding.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Wyatt, MO

Cairo, IL


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Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on semissourian.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Trying to scare us out so they can use the excuse that there are no people at risk isn't working.

There are those of us who intend to stay so that we can keep an eye on those gauges and tell our story to the world.

Government is supposed to be by the people, for the people and not for the dirt or the dollar. We want to see the "for the people" part kick in. Today.

By the way, we don't mind carrying this fight for the entire area. They need relief too.

-- Posted by InReply on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 1:20 PM

What are you talking about?

-- Posted by sideshowbob on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 1:27 PM

Scare tactics? You are willing to die to prove your point? You shouldn't be reasoning by virtue of court cases and land battles and press conferences, but consider your LIFE as most important! When you all drown in that fishbowl I'm sure there will be plenty of fingers to point at to BLAME.

Just like in New Orleans. Just as mayor Nagin waited too long, while some of us knew, and helplessly, hopelessly SCREAMED "MURDERER!" to the images of that coward and the LA governor on the television as they announced the vountary evacuation. We knew the deaths & destruction were possible, and that time was running out and they waited too long to ORDER people to leave, until it was impossible to get out in time.

This flood is historic. Nobody knows for CERTAIN exactly what will happen. A levee could break at ANY TIME. People elsewhere are already evacuating. People in Cairo are lining up those to BLAME if a catastrophe happens.

If the evacuation isn't needed, then all damages and losses are blamed on the politician who ordered it. And I'm telling you, none of them have the guts to save your life. Only YOU can do that!

Once it becomes obvious to those who refuse to think for themselves that they need to evacuate Cairo, it will be TOO LATE TO EVACUATE. Your routes will be gone. You will drown there, unless you have a boat.

But please be assured, as you take your last breath of air before the muddy water surges down your throat, you were in the right about a bunch of farmland not being as valuable as your life. Duhhhhh!

When your next of kin are crying over you, and pointing fingers at the usual bad guys (never the ones who deserve it), I'll be thinking "This is no one's fault, only a suicide by gross bad judgement and total lack of personal responsibility."

-- Posted by teachergloria on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 1:55 PM

@ teachergloria

I have tried to keep this from getting personal but some people ask for it.

May God forbid you be teaching any of my progeny. I wouldn't want them learning ignorance.

I lived in Louisiana during Katrina and Gustave. I moved there right after Andrew tore threw in 92.

You have no idea what a great man Nagin was to see in action and what a fool the governor made as she turned away help immediately after the storm but before the levees broke.

But Louisiana aside, I suppose you are also one of those people who wouldn't have gone to war because you might have gotten hurt. Some people are like that. We aren't.

Now I've got to think about advocating conscription.

-- Posted by InReply on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 2:23 PM

Wow. And here I thought Nagin could have prevented so much tragedy if he'd called for a mandatory evacuation as Katrina was bearing down on the city.

-- Posted by deepthoughts on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 3:13 PM

I am very bitter at the politicians and the few greedy self centered farmers, but please folks--watch out for yourselves! You are the only ones who can take care of you and yours!! Get out while you can--no matter if you are in the floodway, Cairo or any other river town. This situation is more serious than any of us can know. Take heed and please be safe.

-- Posted by hey ya'll on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 3:22 PM

Blow the levy and get your 6 inches of relief,ruin lots of homes in missouri and when the small levies in the floodway break goodbye East Prarie,Charleston,and several other towns.Cairo has some beautiful homes also but should we cut off our nose to spite our face?

-- Posted by marko on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 3:44 PM

OK, they are issuing evacuation 'suggestions'. Why not issue the same evauation order that was instituted in the overflow area in MO -- mandatory evacuation. As people have said, people's lives are at risk here. Now people are being downright stupid. If you see the water rising it is time to get out, otherwsie instead of being a spokesperson for the cause, you will become a statstic.

-- Posted by garyj4 on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 3:46 PM

The floodway is a flood control method that has been in place for over 50 years. Please do yourself a favor and read the link just over to your right ( http://www.semissourian.com/files/birds-...

The landowners in the floodway were paid flowage easements ($) for the use of their land. Why anyone would build a structure in a spillway (my term for it) escapes human reasoning.

If we fail to use the floodway, will the landowners be required to refund the US govt the money paid for flowage easements? I'll be glad to work with the team that calculates the interest those individuals will owe us taxpayers.

-- Posted by Internet_intact on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 4:53 PM

As we approach the end of the month (as was also the Katrina diaster)who among us can afford to just pick up and evacuate, leave homes, jobs family and for what could be any length of time. Four dollar a gallon gas, hundred dollar a night hotel, every meal in a restaurant. There is no terrific answer. The Corps has a job to do, and authority to do it. The floodways were put in place for a reason, and I bet there is other farmland to farm until this area is available. And don't say farmland is more valuable then Cairo, that's not the point.

-- Posted by whathappenedhere on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 6:01 PM

just so you idiots know, none of your precious tax money is being used in dutchtown missouri! all of our supplies were either donated or baught with our own money so if you are not a resident or do not have a loved one in dutchtown missouri then you can keep our town out of your pathetic mouths because all you're worried about is money. you dont care about our homes n you sure as hell dont care about our lives! you have no rights at all to comment on us or our descissions so please back the **** off! all of our rock was donated by Strack Rock Quary, it took 438 dumptruck loads! so thank you strack for your help, all of us dutchtown residents that voted for the levee bc we didnt want to lose our homes appreciate you very much!! thank you to all of the inmates that also helped alot to save our community! and thank you to teen challenge and all of the semo students and all of the volunteers! we are very grateful! but to the rest of you that are running their mouths bc they think they have a say in this, think again, go to hell, and god be with you!

-- Posted by kelsi-DutchtownResident on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 6:30 PM

I am going to post this one more time, and hope someone is going to get the light bulb to come.

ACoE, IS HOLDING BACK WATER IN OTHER FEEDS INTO THE MAIN RIVER. Now that I've yelled that, let see if someone will follow the possibility. I'm going to speak for the TN River area, basically because that is what I have the best knowledge of.

Wednesday morning ACoE took control of KY Dam, KY Lake. They basically shut the river flow off, and have been stacking water up behind it ever since. This occurred just as we were getting 5.5" of rain here, below Pickwick Dam, and larger amounts than that across the rest of the basin up river of Pickwick. Think tornadoes/storms in northern Alabama. The river was already high, and we have had saturated soil since the end of March, first of April. So when we get a big rain event up thru this area right now, it's going one place, the river. Pickwick has been spilling water at as much of a controlled rate as possible, but they can not allow that structure to fail, or the ones above it. That means that KY Lake has been filling up to a rate of close to 2' per day.

Just minutes ago, I checked levels, Pickwick is within 7 INCHES of the top of the gates. Tailwater level(below the dam) is 380'+. KY Dam is at 368', top of the gates is 375', filling at 2' per day, do some math!!!!! They are going to have NO CHOICE but to release water.

THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WATERSHED THIS HAPPENING IN!!

Forecast for us is not good, with rain moving in late Saturday night, thru Sunday/Monday. Remember, we are already saturated, have flood waters already up the kazoo, so where do you think it's going to go???????

I would suggest anyone in Cairo, you had better get your tail to higher ground. The Spillway has already been ordered into to mandatory evacuation, so hopefully those people have heeded that warning. "IF" this next system turns into a major rain, it probably won't make a dimes worth of difference if they blow that levee or not. This water that has been piled up in this crap shoot to try and satisfy all the parties in the heated area is going to be rolling that way. Flat guarantee you that that the ACoE will not chance failing a dam.

So pull your eyesight out of the tunnel, remove the blinders, and get out of the area that is at risk. Warnings have been issued, someone had better be heeding them, or you have no right in the end result to complain.

-- Posted by TN River Farmer on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 6:57 PM

Could be wrong, but I don't think anybody mentioned Dutchtown in this story or these comments.

-- Posted by FarmBoy06 on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 7:42 PM

Could be wrong, but I don't think anybody mentioned Dutchtown in this story or these comments.

-- Posted by FarmBoy06 on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 7:42 PM

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just seen a comment. So there!

This is a Missouri website, IL, pack you bags and welcome to Missouri, when they blow that levee, Cairo washes down into Missouri.

-- Posted by c'monnowppl on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 8:04 PM

Kelsi: Spending all the time saving a gas station, an old furniture building and one house in Dutchtown is a waste of resources, no matter how radical a statement you make. But, this string isn't about Dutchtown. Bottom line is that the land deeds from early 20th century of the Birds Point floodway properties allow the government to flood it whenever it deems necessary. If you inherited that land, go to the graveyard and scream at great grampa. Just because you "had nothing to do with allowing flooding" has no meaning. The Little River Drainage District floods areas such as land surrounding Dutchtown nearly annually with the same deed clauses. Nobody gripes because its a common thing. That having been said, my prayers are with the families and landowners within the floodway. Nothing personal at all.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 9:26 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is defending the idea of intentionally breaching a Missouri levee to reduce flooding in Cairo (KAY-roh).

Missouri officials object to the plan, saying it would endanger 130,000 acres of prime farmland.

But Simon told The Associated Press on Tuesday that farmers will be compensated for their losses and will be able to use the land next year. On the other hand, flooding could devastate the poor town of Cairo.

She noted an Illinois levee was intentionally breached during 1993 flooding.

Simon also says the Army Corps of Engineers would not break the Birds Point levee until water had already topped the levee.

The Corps of Engineers says it will put off a decision until at least Wednesday.

This posting is in the news, So again I ask, who is reimbursing them?

-- Posted by TravisSheppard on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, at 11:28 PM

Enough already, don't know what the attorney general in Missouri is doing appealing a federal law in place since the 1920's. The appellant judges will tell that attorney general to shut up and uphold the lower court ruling, clear cut law, the Corps of Engineers have the easement rights to do so. Waste of tax payers money and time for such legal non-sense. The Army Corps of Engineers has the RIGHT to blow the levees and nobody can stop them. They are the ones in charge of trying to stabilize the flooding and levee system. In fact the feds have already compensated some people owning the farmland.

As the article states, they are doing what mother nature will do anyway, breach the levees for this flood is an extremely rare event, a once in a lifetime flood of this magnitude breaking all kinds of records.

-- Posted by batman_is_mad on Sat, Apr 30, 2011, at 8:28 AM

If you read the Army Corps paper on this, you will see that less than 50 percent of landowners sold rights to the Corps and after being unsuccessful, they used eminent domain to gain enough to start on the project.

It was initiated to protect Cairo with a 15,000 population and required LOWERING the levee already in place in Missouri.

-- Posted by sunshine51 on Sat, Apr 30, 2011, at 2:40 PM


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