June 23, 2008 in Nation/World

Mississippi approaches cresting point

Associated Press
 

LOUISIANA, Mo. – The faithful gathered for church services Sunday in towns hard-hit by flooding along the Mississippi River, d many found comfort in word that the swollen waterway was close to hitting its highest point.

Dozens of parishioners filled the dry Centenary United Methodist Church in Louisiana, a few blocks from floodwaters that still cover about 15 percent of the town’s neighborhoods.

They prayed for aid and gave thanks for the volunteers, National Guard soldiers and prison inmates who helped the community of nearly 4,000 in recent days.

“And they all worked,” the Rev. Jeanne Webdell said of the volunteers. “They worked for a cause bigger than themselves, worked to help people that most didn’t even know.”

It appeared Sunday that the flooding in the town and elsewhere in Missouri and Illinois could give way to recovery in a few days. The National Weather Service said Sunday the Mississippi was cresting at Canton, Mo., not far from the Iowa state line, through the lock and dam near Quincy, Ill.

Late Sunday, the official crest forecast was pushed back for several points downriver. The river wasn’t expected to rise any higher than expected, but forecasters said it would take a little longer to get there. Crests were forecast for today from Hannibal to Clarksville.

“It’s quieter compared to earlier this week,” said Louisiana emergency management director Mike Lesley, adding that sandbagging in the town had largely ceased. “Last night, I actually got some sleep.”

The late forecast said the river at hard-hit Winfield and Grafton, Ill., down through St. Louis and Chester, Ill., would crest on Wednesday.

“We’re just trying to deal with it as it comes to us,” said Jamie Scott, a dispatcher with the Jersey County, Ill., Sheriff’s Office. “The crest (forecast) has dropped almost a foot, so that’s a good thing. … All of our levees are holding.”

Officials in Lincoln County, Mo., inspected levees near Winfield by air Sunday after one was overtopped earlier in the day, flooding about 1,000 acres and fewer than half a dozen homes, said Lincoln County emergency management spokesman Andy Binder.

Several miles down the river in Grafton, the floodwaters continued to spread deeper into the 650-resident village, heavily dependent on tourism. The town’s main road – the Great River Road – was impassable in some stretches, limiting access to businesses.

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