CLARKSVILLE, Mo. – Those fighting floods in several communities along the Mississippi River were mostly successful Sunday despite the onslaught of water, but an ominous forecast and the growing accumulation of snow in the upper Midwest tempered any feelings of victory.
The surging Mississippi was at or near crest at several places from the Quad Cities south to near St. Louis, some reaching 10-12 feet above flood stage. Problems were plentiful: Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland were swamped as planting season approaches; three people died; roads and bridges closed, including sections of major highways like U.S. 61 in Iowa and Missouri and crossings at Quincy, Ill., and Louisiana, Mo.
The U.S. Coast Guard said 114 barges broke loose near St. Louis on Saturday night, and four hit the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in St. Louis County. The bridge was closed about six hours for inspection but reopened around 8 a.m. Sunday. Most of the runaway barges were corralled, but at least 10 sank and two others were unaccounted for, Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said.
Two confirmed flood-related deaths occurred near the same spot in Indiana; another was in Missouri. In all three cases, vehicles were swept off the road in flash floods. High water could be responsible for two more, both in Illinois, where a decomposed body was found Thursday in an Oak Brook creek and a body was found Saturday in the Mississippi River at Cora. Investigations continue.
The danger is far from over, as spots south of St. Louis aren’t expected to crest until late this week. Significant flooding is possible in places like Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Cairo, Ill.
Adding to concern is a forecast that calls for heavy rain tonight and Tuesday throughout much of the Midwest. National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Phillipson said an inch of rain is likely in many places, some places even more. Rain is projected from Wisconsin through Missouri.
“That’s not what we want to see when we have this kind of flooding, that’s for sure,” Phillipson said.
Harley-Davidson riders and bicyclists zipped through Grafton, Ill., a tourist town 40 miles north of St. Louis, many pausing to snap pictures of the swollen river.
Floodwaters were lapping against the side of Grafton’s Artisan Village, a flea market-type business for artists. Owner Marty Harp, 53, sipped a Miller Lite as he cast a wary eye to the sky.
“If we can hold off the crest and it doesn’t rain for a couple of days, it’ll be OK,” Harp said.
But anxiety looms regarding the heavy snow the northern Midwest has received this month and 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 is possible in the Black Hills area of South Dakota through this morning.