May 23, 1995 in Nation/World

Advancing High Water Threatens Historic Mississippi River Town The River Stood At 16.2 Feet Over Flood Stage At Ste. Genevieve

Scott Charton Associated Press

High water that swamped towns along the Missouri River pushed downstream Monday into the Mississippi, threatening this historic French settlement for the second time in two years.

A 50-foot levee raised against the devastating 1993 flood held firm between the river and the heart of 260-year-old Ste. Genevieve’s historic district, filled with quaint bed-and-breakfasts, cafes and gift shops.

“It’s all very disheartening, very depressing, because we were coming along just fine in recuperating - until now. We just can’t believe this,” said Betty Geraghty, sitting on her porch about 100 yards from the levee.

Upstream, the Missouri crested Sunday at 36.5 feet - or 11.5 feet above flood stage - at St. Charles, near the point where it joins the Mississippi. By Monday morning, the Missouri had dropped 1.2 feet there.

By the time the crest reached St. Charles, 20 miles northwest of St. Louis, the Missouri had flooded communities and cropland along 200 miles of the river. Two deaths were blamed on high water in the state.

At Ste. Genevieve, about 60 miles south of St. Louis, the Mississippi stood at 43.2 feet Monday, or 16.2 feet over flood stage, and was expected to crest Tuesday at more than 43 feet.

The sky cleared over parts of the region Monday, but more storms were forecast.

Vern Baumann, president of the Ste. Genevieve levee district, took a daybreak walk along the gravel surface of the barricade. Layered below the crushed rock were sandbags first stacked in 1993.

“I think we can win this time, if the weather holds,” said Baumann, who was nearly swept away during the 1993 flood in an earth mover atop a faltering levee. “We’re somewhat wiser now. We know how much river we can take, and we know how much we can accomplish quickly.”

Outside the First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Kelly Allen kept watch over a steadily chugging pump that spewed water from the building’s basement over an arm of the levee.

What’s important, Allen said, is preserving not only the community but its members’ faith that the waters will be beaten.

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