Illinois National Guardsmen, volunteers and prison inmates spent Sunday furiously sandbagging along the Illinois River to prepare levees for an expected flood crest.
“The only thing holding the water back is the sandbagging efforts that have taken place,” said Chris Tamminga of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
To the west, however, crews in Missouri took a break from sandbagging as the sky cleared following a night of storms which delivered less rain than expected.
In west-central Illinois, the Illinois River had risen about 8 inches since Saturday in largely rural Scott and Morgan counties, the National Weather Service said.
The river had been expected to crest Thursday at 28.4 feet, 2 feet below the top of the levee in Scott County, but it already had hit that level Sunday. No new crest forecasts were immediately available.
Tamminga said workers were reinforcing levees with lumber and plastic sheeting, working to add about 20 inches to the top of the barriers. Some 160 National Guardsmen were working with 215 prison inmates.
Tamminga doesn’t know whether any or all of the levees will hold.
“Any time you’ve got water lying up against a levee for this long a period of time, the levee becomes less and less stable,” she said.
In Scott County, retired sheriff and sandbagging volunteer Ken Lawson said he’d feel more confident if more people were working on the levees.
“We don’t have nearly the volunteers we had in 1993,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the popular thing to do now, or maybe we’re not getting enough footage on television.”
Along the Mississippi River’s west bank, sandbagging had stopped at Ste. Genevieve, Mo.
“The sun is shining and the weather’s cooler, and everybody seems to be taking a relaxed day today,” said Mayor Bill Anderson. “We’re just hoping to hit the crest Tuesday and to start dropping.”
About 120 Missouri National Guard soldiers remained on duty at Ste. Genevieve to help haul rock to reinforce the levee. Guard members also helped patrol levees around the state and provided ferry service to communities cut off by high water.
Residents in one marooned community, Portage des Sioux, Mo., planned a barbecue Sunday afternoon for the soldiers.
Twenty-four-hour rainfall amounts were less than 1 inch in Missouri and Kansas. Elsewhere, however, heavy rain had fallen in South Dakota in the Missouri River watershed, with 4.5 inches recorded at Mission Hill and 3.07 at Pickstown.