Midwest rivers will rise again, just not as high
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ST. LOUIS — More heavy rain and late-season snow are creating new flood concerns for Midwest river towns still cleaning up from April flooding, though forecasters say the waters won't rise as high as last month.
Precipitation pelted the heartland Thursday and Friday, and was expected to continue through the weekend.
Up to 4½ inches of rain was expected in the St. Louis area alone through Sunday, said National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs.
The timing isn't great. Heavy rain last month led to significant flooding on the Mississippi River and in some cases record flooding on the Illinois River. Both still are flooding at many locations in Missouri and Illinois, and will see a bump from the new rain.
Fuchs said the rivers should crest again next week, though well short of last month's levels. He expects Missouri towns along the Mississippi north of St. Louis to see crests 6-7 feet above flood stage, which is a somewhat arbitrary term that the weather service defines as the point when "water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property or commerce." But that still will be 3-4 feet below the April crests.
It's still enough to cause some concern for Richard Murry, emergency management director in Pike County, Mo. April flooding damaged a few dozen homes, closed several businesses and shut down dozens of roads in the rural area north of St. Louis. It also forced the Champ Clark Bridge, a Mississippi River crossing at Louisiana, Mo., to close for several days.
The Mississippi River reached 25 feet last month in Louisiana, 10 feet above flood stage. It is expected to crest at 21.3 feet Tuesday.
If the river stays at that level, the bridge will remain open, Murry said. But about a dozen businesses that had to close due to last month's flooding still are waiting for the river to recede before they start up again, and the new rain adds to their uncertainty, Murry said.
"They're hesitant to reopen and have to snatch everything right back out," Murry said. "Right now it's raining like the dickens. Everybody's in kind of a holding pattern."
Several towns along the Illinois River also reached record flood levels last month, and the river is still significantly over flood stage at Illinois towns like LaGrange, Meredosia and Valley City.
Fuchs said the rain will slow the Illinois River's decline and may boost it back up, "but it won't come anywhere close to the record heights we had a couple of weeks ago."
High water was a contributing factor in an accident around 1 a.m. Friday on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said. A vessel struck an area where barges dock on the river near Alton, Ill., causing 14 barges to break away and strike another barge and about 300 gallons of crude oil to spill into the water. The river was briefly closed for a 4-mile stretch for cleanup and to secure the barges.
Fogarty said the accident was under investigation and there was no evidence the spilled oil made its way to the river banks.
Associated Press writer Jim Suhr contributed to this report.
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