Cairo police chief urges remaining residents to evacuate the city as water covers more roads

Monday, May 2, 2011 ~ Updated 2:56 PM

CAIRO, ILL. -- Access to Cairo, Ill., is slowly getting cut off as the rivers around the town continue to rise, covering roads and spurring law enforcement to restrict access to the city to emergency personnel only.

Cairo Police Chief Gary Hankins strongly urged any remaining residents to evacuate.

"This is a very serious situation," he said.

Mayor Judson Childs said he was deeply concerned today after a visit from Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh. Walsh toured the levee system in the city, including inspecting a boil on 40th Street.

The Ohio River was at 61.25 feet at 2 p.m. today. The previous record was 59.5 in 1937, the only other year the Birds Point-New Madrid spillway was activated. a decision about breaching the levee again will be made at 5 p.m.

About 100 people stayed in Cairo after signing a waiver saying they understood the danger of not adhering to a mandatory evacuation Sunday.

"It might be 99 in a minute because I might be leaving," Childs said.

Childs, who hands over his duties as mayor tonight to Tyrone Coleman, said he was extremely concerned about his city.

"I still have interest and heart in Cairo. I love Cairo," he said.

Highway 3 is blocked at Olive Branch, Ill. Highway 127 was closed as well. Water was up to the road on Interstate 57 just north of Cairo, but remained passable at 2 p.m. Highway 37 was also safe.

Click here for more Illinois road closures.

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