River Towns Prepare For Near Historic Crests
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Waters rose Sunday along the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, sending high water into some small towns that had just begun to dry out from the floods of just a few weeks ago.
Elsewhere in the state power remained out following strong storms earlier in the weekend, and some farmers in central Illinois reported that some newly planted corn had been washed away.
In Grafton, about 20 miles north of St. Louis, many businesses were closed and some homes had been evacuated while residents waited for the river to crest. That’s expected Monday, when the water should be more 12 feet over the point at which flooding begins, the National Weather Service said.
Police Chief Chris Sullivan said parts of the town at higher elevations, including wineries on bluffs above the river, were open and tending to tourists. Many other areas were under water.
“Unfortunately, a large portion of the downtown is in the flood plain,” he said. “A majority of the businesses have been impacted and many have been closed. We’ve had apartments that have to be evacuated.”
A few locations are completely cut off except by boat, he said, and a number of local roads and highways are closed. A handful of residents chose to stay in their homes, but by midafternoon Sunday no one had been hurt by flooding and no medical emergencies had been reported in areas isolated by high water.
The river town, which floods in many years, last had high water in late April.
“Most of the businesses were cleaned up and ready to open” when water started rising again last week. “It came back fast and hard.”
The forecast crest is just a few inches short of one of Grafton’s all-time worst floods in 2008.
That, Sullivan said, was a “monster flood.”
Downstream in Alton, the Illinois Department of Transportation closed parts of State Routes 100 and 143 due to high water, and a park along the river and the Argosy Casino are closed.
But aside from some downtowns businesses pumping water out of basements, city spokesman Matthew Asselmeier said, the riverside city was waiting calmly for Tuesday’s expected river crest at 11 feet above flood stage. Most of the areas prone to flooding, he said, are green space.
“Alton’s weathered many floods in its history,” he said. “We’ll weather this one just fine.”
Elsewhere, several thousand Ameren Illinois electric customers were without power Sunday after week storms after storms knocked down power lines, Ameren Illinois spokeswoman Victoria Busch said. The largest concentration, more than 3,000 by late Sunday, were in the Edwardsville area. Crew were raising power lines late Sunday afternoon but struggling with access to muddy locations.
“It’s very muddy and swampy,” she said.
The company hoped to have power restored by midnight Sunday, she said.
In central Illinois, strong storms that quickly blew through Illinois Friday and into Saturday left some farmers with newly planted corn fields washed away.
Jim Buckman of Maquon in west-central Illinois said he lost 220 acres of corn to high water from the Spoon River. He has crop insurance but says he needs to replant by Wednesday for his insurance to cover his crop.
“The thing we’re up against now is time,” the 51-year-old farmer told The Register-Mail in Galesburg.
The National Weather Service is forecasting drier weather through midweek for much of the state before rain chances return in many areas Wednesday and Thursday.
The weather took its toll elsewhere, too.
Winds that the National Weather Service said reached 70 mph damaged some homes and businesses and blew down tree limbs in the Decatur area late Friday.
The annual Fishing for Freedom tournament in Quincy was forced off the Mississippi by high water Sunday and onto inland lakes.
And on Saturday in East Peoria, at least one state girls softball championship game had to be cut short after heavy rains.
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