Effects of swollen Ohio River still being felt in Southern Illinois

Thursday, May 5, 2011

CAIRO, Ill. -- It's still difficult traveling to and around Cairo, according to city officials, who on Wednesday were still not allowing residents to return to the Southern Illinois city that has been largely evacuated since Sunday.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated the second phase in breaching the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway on Tuesday, Mayor Tyrone Coleman advised residents he was keeping a mandatory evacuation in place, due to unprecedented flooding. Residents, about 100 of them, who chose to stay in Cairo are allowed to leave in order to get supplies and re-enter with proper identification.

"Everybody seems to think because we're having nice weather that everything's fine ... but we're still above the flood stage they had in '37," Cairo police chief Gary Hankins said Wednesday afternoon. "Our problems have not gone away. We still have issues and concerns that we're dealing with."

Hankins added that authorities have a list of residents who can get back in Cairo at this time and their addresses. However, it hasn't stopped others from trying to get home, he said.

"We feel for them, but it's an issue of safety," Hankins said. "We're down to two ways out of town. If one of those happens to be blocked or not viable anymore, then we're down to one way out."

The Ohio River at Cairo was at 59.8 feet at 5 p.m. Wednesday, down from its historic crest of 61.72 feet at 10 p.m. Monday before the effects of the first levee blast were felt. It jumped briefly to 60 feet at 4 p.m., according to a National Weather Service reading. The river is still forecast to drop below 59.5 feet Saturday.

Traffic was still being rerouted Wednesday at Olive Branch, Ill., where Highway 3 was closed due to flooding over the road. At Tamms, Ill., Highway 127 remained closed as the city is still pumping seep water into the Cache River. Both towns were inundated with water this week, causing many families to evacuate. County law enforcement, with other emergency personnel, performed numerous water rescues to take people from their residences.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Cairo, IL

Tamms, IL

Olive Branch, IL

Map of pertinent addresses

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