The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 21, 2013

Crests approaching in several towns along Mississippi River

(Continued)

CLARKSVILLE, Mo. —

“That’s not what we want to see when we have this kind of flooding, that’s for sure,” Phillipson said.

Meanwhile, the northern Midwest has received heavy snow this month, and concerns are turning to what happens when it melts and makes its way into tributaries of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Forecasters said up to 6 inches of new snow was possible in the Black Hills area of South Dakota through Monday morning.

Hundreds of miles to the southeast, in La Grange, Mo., Lewis County emergency management director David Keith wasn’t bothered by the soggy forecast. Sandbags were holding back the murky Mississippi from La Grange City Hall, a bank and a handful of threatened homes, and the water was receding.

“What we’re worried about now is all that snow melt in North and South Dakota and Minnesota,” Keith said.

A handful of river towns are most affected by the high waters — places like Clarksville, Mo., and Grafton, Ill., that have chosen against flood walls or levees.

By Sunday, sandbagging had all but stopped in Clarksville, evidence of the confidence that the makeshift sandbag levee hurriedly erected to protect downtown would hold. Volunteers, including nearly three dozen prison inmates, worked since Wednesday, using 6,000 tons of sand and gravel.

The river was at 34.7 feet Sunday, nearly 10 feet above the 25-foot flood stage — a somewhat arbitrary term the NWS defines as the point when “water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property or commerce” — and expected to rise another foot before cresting Monday.

“We believe we’ll have a successful conclusion,” said Jo Anne Smiley, longtime mayor of the 442-resident hamlet.

Richard Cottrell, a 64-year-old antique shop owner, was hopeful, but nervous. After two days of endless sandbagging, Cottrell thought he could rest Saturday night, but the constant beeping of heavy equipment outside and flood worries kept him up.

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