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Floodwaters Roll Into Mississippi River Few Homes Submerged At Confluence Despite Water 16 Feet Above Flood Stage

SUNDAY, MARCH 16, 1997

The Ohio River’s crest eased into the Mississippi River on Saturday, flooding a small part of this town where the two rivers join.

Fewer than a dozen Wickliffe homes and a city park were under water Saturday although the water was 16 feet above flood stage.

The merged rivers break flood stage every two to three years, so no one lives in the flood plain, said Ricky Dennis at the J&D; Fish Market, where a chart on the bait shop wall chronicles a century of flooding.

“We get the double whammy here - from the north and the east,” Dennis said.

Just down river from Wickliffe, the Mississippi was already 8 feet above flood stage at New Madrid, Mo., flooding thousands of acres of mostly rural land along both banks.

Upstream from Wickliffe, the Ohio had flooded nearly 1,000 miles of shoreline.

The flooding, the worst in the region in 30 years, began March 1 after a huge storm filled the river and its tributaries. Fifty-nine deaths have been blamed on that storm’s tornadoes and flooding across seven states.

At Smithland, Ky., upriver from Wickliffe, residents in the past week had filled more than 200,000 sandbags to build a 2-mile levee around their town, and about 30 National Guard troops spent Saturday morning filling a final load of bags just in case they are needed.

The water was still about 7 feet high against the levee, which was beginning to leak in places, but the water was starting to recede.

“I’ve been watching the debris line on the sandbags, and it’s hard to believe after all we’ve been through, but it is going down,” Smithland Fire Chief Anthony Thomason said.

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