Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Swollen Mississippi Forces River Towns to Scramble

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Swollen Mississippi Forces River Towns to Scramble

Article excerpt

Victims of flash-flooding along creeks hauled away sopping mattresses and tangled debris Friday as residents of vulnerable towns along the Mississippi River prepared for a gathering surge.

In De Soto, where Joachim Creek rushed beyond its banks Thursday and damaged at least 125 dwellings, people worked Friday to collect tires, coolers, plastic bags and the rest of the mess left behind when floodwater quickly drained away. In East St. Louis, about 50 people sought shelter at a senior center after neighborhoods near Interstate 255 and State Street were swamped.

De Soto police identified on Friday the motorist whose car was swept from Veterans Drive by Joachim Creek about 11:40 a.m. Thursday. She was Arlie Hopper, 80, of De Soto, whose body was found in her car about two hours later.

Heavy rain that struck St. Louis all day Thursday caused the flash-flooding and boosted the rising Mississippi and Missouri rivers. But days of even heavier rains well to the north in Iowa and northern Illinois provided most of the anticipated flood crest heading downstream.

The National Weather Service slightly reduced its crest forecast for Tuesday at St. Louis, down one-half foot to 39 feet nine feet over flood stage. If that holds, the river will be higher than it's been in 18 years, although it did reach 38.7 feet in July 2008.

The river was at 29 feet downtown Friday and rising roughly four feet each day. City workers closed gates along the floodwall. The flood stage of 30 is an arbitrary number, but 40 feet is considered a "major" flood in St. Louis, and the river has exceeded that level only seven times in recorded history.

More drama was found in Clarksville, Mo., about 50 miles north of St. Louis, the scene of a gallant and successful effort to battle the river during the Great Flood of 1993. Mayor Jo Anne Smiley sounded the alarm Wednesday evening, and as many as 200 volunteers have been building a temporary floodwall of gravel covered by plastic and topped by sandbags.

"The wall is going up well," Smiley said. "We're not as panicky as we were (Thursday). I believe the work will hold, if the river doesn't change its mind. …

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