ST. LOUIS, Mo. (IRN/KMOX/AP) - The Mississippi River has risen to moderate flood stage in parts of Missouri, and heavy rain this week could make matters worse.
The National Weather Service reports that flooding is occurring from Canton through Winfield. The river is expected to reach near flood stage by early next week in towns like Canton, Hannibal, Louisiana, Clarksville and Winfield. Some roads are already closed and thousands of acres of farmland are under water.
Because of buyouts since the 1993 flood, few homes or businesses remain in the flood plain.
Meanwhile, heavy rain falling on Tuesday could make matters worse, and forecasters say more rain is possible later in the week, too.
Over the years, Missouri and Illinois have experienced major floods that have wiped out towns, inundated an airport and swept away farms, and while it doesn’t appear flooding will reach 2008 levels in the next few weeks, discussions continue on how to mitigate such disastrous flooding.
Jim Steinman, chief of emergency management for the Army Corps of Engineers, says some experts disagree on how to best control the Mississippi River’s rising waters every year. He says environmentalists and some who live in river towns suggest doing away with the levee system altogether… but he’s not sure that’s the right approach.
“Let’s take them down and return to the natural state it was in. But many of the levees protect development,” says Steinman.
The idea is that fewer levees along the upper Mississippi would reduce the stress on levees downstream. Despite massive floods in 1993 and 2008, Steinman says no levees failed. They were simply overtopped, and then breached.
Steinman says the Corps is helping residents be more prepared, to help prevent the losses incurred during major floods over the past few decades. That includes tweaking some flood terminology.
Steinman says the terms “100-year-flood” and “500-year flood” don’t mean the flood occurs every 100 or 500 years. A 100 year flood refers to one that has a one percent chance of topping the levees in any given year.
“We’re trying to change the public’s perception so they understand it as a one percent chance of exceeding the top of the levee,” he says.
Flooding in western Illinois has so far not lived up to forecasters’ early expectations. It was predicted flood levels along the Mississippi would rise four feet above records set over the last couple of decades, but slower than expected snow melt and relatively minor rainfall totals have produced moderate flooding in some areas.