Mighty Mississippi River - The Worst of the Flooding is Over...

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 06/22/2008 - 10:37am.

The swollen Mississippi River's crest rolled downstream on Saturday, sparing St. Louis from major flooding but leaving billions of dollars in damage to crops, houses and infrastructure further north. ~ SLIDE SHOW

Emergency workers anxiously watched the skies, fearing that more rain could swell river levels again and complicate recovery efforts from the worst Midwest flooding in 15 years.

With the worst of the flooding apparently over, communities along the Mississippi's flood plain were tallying their losses and waiting for water to recede.

"Right now things are looking good. The crisis part is passed and that's heartening. We're breathing a sigh of relief," said Farm Bureau official Blake Roderick, executive director for Pike and Scott counties in Illinois.

Just isolated showers and thunderstorms were forecast for portions of southern Wisconsin on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

River levels peaked in St. Louis at 37.27 feet late on Friday, lower than earlier forecast and below the record of 49.58 feet set in 1993.

More than two dozen levee breaks up-river earlier in the week took pressure off downstream areas.

No additional levee breaks were reported on Saturday, and sandbagging operations in some communities were halted.

"St. Louis has crested. Everything is holding north of here," said John Daves, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.

Some 130 miles downstream, the nation's most important river is expected to crest at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Monday at 41.5 feet, well below the 1993 peak of 48.5 feet.


The Midwest flooding and storms blamed for 24 deaths since late May have caused damage in the billions of dollars in this prime part of the U.S. grain belt and are expected to push U.S. and world food prices higher.

The violent rush submerged small towns and vast stretches of prime corn and soybean acreage. Barge traffic remains halted on a 200-mile stretch of the mid-Mississippi River, costing barge carriers millions of dollars a day.

"At times like these you don't know whether to cry or laugh. But here in the Midwest we tend to favor the latter," said Charlotte Hoerr, who with her husband Brent farms near Palmyra, Missouri.

Up to 5 million acres of recently planted crops may have been lost at the heart of the world's top grain and food exporter. In Iowa alone, crop losses have been estimated at $3 billion.

Prices for corn, cattle and hogs all set records this week, and a world economy already slammed by inflation from soaring energy prices braced for another blow.

The economically depressed Illinois city of East St. Louis, located across the river from the Missouri city, appeared to have been spared a potential disaster as its outdated levees were holding. But some concern lingered about water seeping underneath levees from "sand boils," or leaks bubbling up from water pressure.

Ed Hecker, chief of the office of homeland security for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, said there was "some minor under-seepage" on both sides of the river at that point but added, "It really is not seen as a risk to the system."

President George W. Bush toured some of the devastation in Iowa on Thursday, and the White House said relief would be made available from $4 billion in the government's disaster fund.

Bridges and highways have been swamped, factories shut down, water and power utilities damaged, and the earnings of railroads, farmers and myriad other businesses disrupted.

Flood relief was rapidly becoming a political issue in a U.S. election year. Republican presidential candidate John McCain toured Iowa on Thursday, separately from Bush, while Democratic candidate Barack Obama helped stack sandbags earlier in the week in Quincy in his home state of Illinois.

"I've seen firsthand the growing magnitude of this flooding disaster, and unfortunately the end is not yet in sight," Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said on Friday, saying he had asked Bush for faster aid for 20 flooded Illinois counties. 



 James B. Kelleher - June 21, 2008 - http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080621/

(Writing by Ros Krasny and Peter Bohan; additional reporting by Nick Carey; editing by Vicki Allen) 

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 06/22/2008 - 10:37am.