Receding waters bring relief to residents

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Floodwaters receded Monday along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, causing flood-weary residents and emergency management officials to breathe sighs of relief.

The river at Cape Girardeau stood at 44.5 feet at mid-morning Monday, down more than a foot from Sunday's crest of 45.7 feet on Sunday. The river is expected to drop to 35.5 feet by Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Several flooded roads in Cape Girardeau County have reopened to traffic, including state Highway 177 north of the city of Cape Girardeau, sheriff's deputies said.

Only old Highway 74 and Highway 25 at Dutchtown, Mo., remained closed to traffic, the result of a temporary 6-foot-high limestone levee that the Army Corps of Engineers built to hold back rising floodwaters from the Diversion Channel.

Floodwaters, however, still surrounded several sandbagged homes at Dutchtown not protected by the levee.

John Green and his wife still can't see their yard.

"We're still coming in on a boat," said Green. "I can wade it with my hip boots on. It's gone down a lot."

State highway officials say the Dutchtown levee could be taken down in a few days.

"Right now, we're looking at starting to remove the levee on Wednesday morning," said Stan Johnson, Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer.

Johnson said ultimately the Corps of Engineers will decide when the levee can be removed. "That is the Corps' call, not ours," he said.

Traffic woes

MoDOT officials want to open up those highways as soon as possible to alleviate traffic congestion on Interstate 55.

Southbound I-55 traffic was backed up daily last week because flooding closed off the Dutchtown route, forcing vehicles through a bottleneck caused by construction on the Diversion Channel bridge.

In an effort to alleviate the traffic tie-ups, MoDOT on Saturday night opened the bridge shoulder along the southbound lane to southbound traffic. Two other lanes on the bridge are used for northbound traffic, but one of those lanes is used only for northbound motorists entering the interstate from the Route AB interchange.

Johnson said northbound traffic hasn't had the tie-ups that have occurred in the southbound lanes, particularly during evening rush hour.

MoDOT plans to continue using the bridge shoulder through the Memorial Day weekend, a normally heavy traffic period on the interstate.

Never got in

Residents of Allenville, Mo., who fled from flooding along the Diversion Channel on Friday, returned to their homes Sunday night.

But about half of the town's 100 residents never left. Phil Thompson was one of those who stayed behind.

"The water came close to people's homes, but it never got in them," he said.

The American Red Cross is providing disaster relief services in 14 counties across the Southeast Missouri region affected by flooding. Mary Burton, local executive director, said it was unprecedented for the region to be hit by tornadoes, damaging thunderstorms and floods in such a short period of time.

People affected by flooding, or those who want to make donations to them, can call 335-9471.

The Salvation Army is collecting cleaning supplies for those affected by flooding. For more information, call 335-7000 or drop off supplies between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 701 Good Hope St.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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