Seep water rising in East Cape Girardeau as other communities begin to dry out

Sunday, May 29, 2011
Chad Holtzclaw, left, and Bob Porter watch as Mike Smith scoops mud and water over the edge of a sandbag wall at the end of Brookwood Drive in East Cape Girardeau, Ill., on Friday, May 27, 2011. In the background, Austin Porter, 12, goes bowfishing in the floodwaters. (Kristin Eberts)

East Cape Girardeau, Ill. -- As the rivers recede from the historic floods of 2011, the water is rising to dangerous levels in East Cape Girardeau.

Cape Girardeau's neighbor across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is inundated with seep water from the Mississippi River and the swollen streams feeding into it, displacing homeowners and threatening businesses.

Hardest hit in the Southern Illinois community of nearly 400 people is the East Cape Mobile Home Park, where at least five residents have moved out of the A-frame properties, and another 15 have fled their campers and mobile homes in the community of some 40 trailers, according to businesswoman Doris Quick. She's the daytime manager for The Pony strip club, owned by SJC of Illinois LLC, whose proprietors also own the mobile home park.

The seep water, fueled by recent heavy rains, has bested sandbags surrounding the residential properties. On Friday afternoon, water was 4 feet high and rising in some parts of the trailer park.

"There still are some people living in there. They are walking in and out because it's too deep to drive through," Quick said. Some boat back and forth.

A white 4x4 pickup truck eased down Virginia Drive Friday, through the deep water leading into the mobile home community. Across Highway 146, seep water rushed up to the sandbags encircling the Tiki Hut Restaurant, where a sign on the door read: "Temporarily Closed Until We Dry Out."

For now, sandbags are protecting the village hall and community center on Brookwood Drive, where pumps were working around the clock to keep the seep water at bay.

"We do have three and a half miles of road underwater," Mayor Al Blumenberg said. "We're trying to check our lagoon; the water has been to deep to get out there."

The state and Alexander County, Ill., governments have sent pumps to the area, including the levees at Gale, Ill, the push point of the seepage.

"It's not going down any, but they're pumping over at Gale and hoping that takes some of it down," Blumenberg said.

Donald Poole lives just down the street from the community building. He's owned his ranch-style home on 49 Brookwood Drive for more than 30 years, and he said he's never seen floodwater like this. Not even the 500-year flood of 1993, as it's been deemed, comes close, he said.

"If we don't get any more rain, it won't get any higher," Poole said. "I don't think it's going to rain that hard again for a while. I hope not."

He shakes his head at the irony that while communities around the region are drying out from the floods, East Cape Girardeau is underwater.

"It's like a toilet," he said of the phenomenon. "Flush the toilet, it goes down one place, comes back up another. [The water is] going down, it pushes up on this side of the levee."

But the river stages around Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois are rising again. At 6 p.m. Saturday, the gauge at Cape Girardeau was 36.2 feet and rising, projected to climb to just shy of 40 feet by Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage is 32 feet. At the Cairo, Ill., gauge, the water was 45.66 feet, on its way to a predicted 48.7 feet by Thursday. That's still 13 feet lower than the record crest of 61.72 feet on the Ohio earlier this month, forcing the evacuation of the Southern Illinois community.

At Babe's Fish Wagon, a roadside eatery adjacent the flooded mobile home park, one employee sounded confident the rising waters wouldn't reach the restaurant. The man, whose Olive Branch, Ill., home was buried under the raging Mississippi and Ohio rivers earlier this month, said he has seen enough water.

At the T, the corner of highways 146 and 3, seep water consumed high round hay bales in the nearby fields, and businesses like Joe's Auction Barn were flooded. Down on 3, The Hushpuppy Saloon was bustling Friday afternoon, but the floodwater was moving closer.

Business was good at Karpet Corner Inc., which was staying dry and seeing plenty of customers in need of new carpet, according to manager Tim Hill.

"This is usually our slow time, but we've not slowed down a bit," Hill said. "We are selling carpet to people who have 3 to 4 foot of water in their house.

"We've been doing pretty well."

Weather forecasts Friday were calling for a mostly dry and warm Memorial Day weekend, just what sodden East Cape Girardeau ordered.

"We need about a week of sunshine and things will get a lot better," Poole said.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent Address:

Highway 146 East Cape Girardeau, Ill.

Highway 3 297b, McClure, Ill.

Map of pertinent addresses

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