Midwest rivers brace for flooding

Waterways in 6 states surge as result of torrential downpours
2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Midwest rivers brace for floodingThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The fast-rising Mississippi River was making travel difficult Saturday, both on the river and for those simply trying to get across it.

The Mississippi, Missouri and other Midwestern rivers in at least six states have surged since torrential rains drenched the region over the last few days. At least two deaths are blamed on flash flooding and a third was suspected, while crews in Indiana were searching for a man whose car was swept away.

The National Weather Service predicted what it characterizes as "major" flooding on the Mississippi from the Quad Cities through just north of St. Louis by this weekend, with similar projections further south into early next week. Some smaller rivers are expected to see record flooding.

People in and around Louisiana, Mo., about 95 miles north of St. Louis, were facing potential travel woes after the Champ Clark Bridge was closed Saturday due to water overtaking the approach on the Illinois side. It was the second Mississippi River crossing to close in two days - one of the two bridges at Quincy, Ill., closed on Friday.

To get across the river, people in the Louisiana, Mo., area either had to drive 35 miles north to Hannibal, Mo., or 50-plus miles south to suburban St. Louis.

Clarksville's flood stage - a somewhat arbitrary term that the NWS defines as the point when "water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property or commerce" - is 25 feet. By Saturday afternoon, the river was at 34.2 feet and expected to rise another 2 feet by today.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon toured the damage and lauded the resilience of the town.

"It's a hard flood fight in Clarksville but it's a flood fight that's going to get won," he said.

Mississippi River levels vary greatly but are typically highest in the spring, so minor flooding is not uncommon. But when river levels exceed flood stage by several feet, serious problems can occur.

Smaller rivers were swelling, too. In Illinois, heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar will shut down its East Peoria factory Sunday as the Illinois River approaches an expected 30-foot crest early this week.

More than 200 people were evacuated along rivers in Indiana. The Wabash River in Tippecanoe County topped 14 feet above flood stage Saturday, the highest level since 1958.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Pence took a helicopter tour Saturday of Kokomo, Tipton and Elwood. A spokeswoman said the tour is the first step toward determining if a disaster declaration might be needed.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has toured flood damage in the Fox River Valley to the west of Chicago and declared four more counties disaster areas.

That brings the total number of counties with disaster declarations to 41. Those designations permit expanded access to emergency resources.

Quinn has been touring flood-hit communities around Illinois for several days and says he's "seen up close the terrible impact the flooding has had."

The recent rains have swollen many rivers and streams across the state to record or near record levels. Homes and businesses have been inundated and thousands of people have been evacuated.

On StarNet: See more photos of the flooding in the Midwest at azstarnet.com/gallery

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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