KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The swollen Mississippi River is straining levees, snarling traffic and forcing people from their homes as it approaches record levels set during the devastating 1993 flooding.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was touring flooded areas Monday in the northeast part of the state, where there have been around a dozen water rescues. Statewide, nearly 400 roads are closed, including part of U.S. 136.
Locks and dams upstream of St. Louis are shut down as the Mississippi River crests at the second-highest level on record in some communities. Midwestern rivers have flooded periodically since March, causing billions of dollars of damage to farmland, homes and businesses.
Near the 1,400-person town of Winfield, Missouri, a Mississippi River levee breached Sunday, forcing evacuations in a rural area, said Sue Casseau, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On Saturday, sandbags were intentionally removed from a farm levee along the Mississippi River near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, to allow water through and remove pressure downstream. The Illinois River also overtopped levees that protect a combined 1,500 acres in western Illinois, she said.
“If water is over the field, no one is planting,” Casseau said. “The full economic impact won’t be known until the end of this planting and harvest season.”
Floodgates also have been closed in St. Louis in advance of the Mississippi River cresting there Thursday. The high water already is causing problems. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that several hotels that were crowded with visitors for the Stanley Cup Final and Cardinals-Cubs baseball games were left without hot water Sunday after too much water overwhelmed a pump station.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown said there also has been sandbagging in several towns and added that “one of the most impressive things is to see these communities come together.”
In Lewis County, Missouri, the focus of much of the sandbagging, floodwaters from the Mississippi River surround the Mark Twain casino on three sides in the town of LaGrange, which isn’t protected by a levee, said Sheriff David Parrish. People also are sandbagging around homes and the city hall there, as well as several other areas of the county. He said that one levee that protects the towns of Taylor and West Quincy is being shored up with 3,500 tons of rock.
“It is the second highest level by inches since ’93,” he said of the river.