Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Little Town That Could: Canton Beats the Flood of '93

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Little Town That Could: Canton Beats the Flood of '93

Article excerpt

The residents moved back in and the National Guard moved out Friday at Canton - the town that beat the Great Flood of '93.

Those who evacuated on July 7 were airing out their houses, mowing lawns and buying groceries at Nieman Foods, where "Floodbusters" T-shirts were selling for $10.

Canton's business district is hard by the Mississippi River, and almost 600 of the town's 800 acres are in the flood plain. Some 450 families and businesses cleared out when they saw the devastation in other towns.

Alexandria, Mo., to the north, was inundated. Levees failed at Meyer, Ill., directly across the river, and at West Quincy, Mo., to the south.

But at Canton, 175 miles north of St. Louis, the levee held - with a lot of help from the 2,700 townspeople. The river reached only two houses, both outside the 2.7-mile levee.

Donald Goodwin was among the 600 evacuees who moved uphill to Culver Stockton College, a small private school that opened its residence halls to the displaced residents.

On Friday, Goodwin pulled his blue Ford pickup to the back door of his house just two blocks from the levee and began unloading, while his wife, Virginia, scrubbed cobwebs off the porch. "It sure looks good," said Virginia Goodwin. "We were lucky, we know that, to come back to a dry house."

Canton, like many of the small towns in northern Missouri, was struggling even before the threat of flooding. Too many of its storefronts are vacant.

Jesse Franks, the town's white-haired mayor, predicted that many businesses, and some residents, would have relocated rather than rebuild if they had been flooded out.

"It would have been an economic disaster, and this area of the state is already hurting," said Franks. "I don't know if I feel lucky - I feel relieved, a little bit numb.

"It's like when we used to come back from the battles in World War II. You're happy you're still here, but you don't let it loose. …

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