WEST ALTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Residents in West Alton were urged to evacuate their homes after Mississippi River waters overflowed a temporary sandbag barricade.
Warning sirens in West Alton activated at 8:30 p.m. Monday to advise residents that they should evacuate. The evacuation was ordered after a temporary flood barricade put up by MoDot in the area near Highway 67 and Lincoln Shields Access Road was breached, according to St. Charles County officials. At least 300 residents were affected by the order.
Authorities said the water levels were higher than the temporary barricade made of sandbags was designed to handle, causing them to break shortly after 8 p.m.
Illinois and Missouri authorities coordinated a closure of the southbound lanes of Route 67 at both ends of the Clark Bridge.
“Residents should evacuate immediately,” officials said.
Across the Mississippi, in Alton, Illinois, spillover flooded the riverfront and roads near a Con Agra plant. The Argosy Alto Casino was closed due to high water and was expected to remain so until Thursday.
The National Weather Service says the river at Alton was at 33.8 feet, 13 feet above flood stage on Monday morning. The NWS predicts a crest at Alton on Tuesday at about 34.5 feet.
This crest is higher than the approximately 30.6 foot crest in April, but lower than originally forecasted, and still well short of 1993’s record 42.7 feet.
Alton has used, and plans to use again, an automated sandbagging machine from Madison County. The machine was used on Friday and filled approximately 1,000 sandbags. An additional 1,000 sandbags were filled on Sunday. The City has approximately 4,000 sandbags.
The City of Alton has also erected a 320-foot Jersey barrier flood wall.
Volunteers were busy stacking sandbags in the tiny Missouri town of Dutchtown Monday as the Mississippi threatened to send water into about a third of the town’s homes and make another nearby town an island.
In Dutchtown, a community of about 100 people, volunteers joined homeowners in adding to makeshift levees left standing from April flooding along the Mississippi. Although floodwaters never reached the levees then, it seemed certain they would this time.
“We’re trying to do what we can before it gets here,” said Doyle Parmer, Dutchtown’s emergency management coordinator. He said 13 homes are in danger, including three rental properties he owns because he moved to Cape Girardeau.
Dutchtown has for years sought a government buyout that town leaders say is caught up in red tape. Under buyout programs, the government purchases homes in the flood plain with the agreement that the land will be used only as green space, such as a park.
“I’ll take 60 cents on the dollar,” Parmer said. “C’mon, you live where it floods. You need to get out, lick your wounds, count your losses and go elsewhere.”
High water could make nearby Allenville, population 117, an island. Just one county road is expected to remain passable at Allenville, so if it floods, the town would be reachable only by boat, said Cape Girardeau County spokesman Eric McGowen. But he said locals were taking things in stride.
“The residents are pretty good at taking care of themselves,” he said.
The scenic Illinois tourist town of Grafton, near St. Louis, was largely isolated with the key highway closed. The Mississippi was expected to crest in the town of about 700 residents early Tuesday.
“Grafton isn’t closed—just parts of it are underwater,” Police Chief Chris Sullivan said. “There’s 12 feet of water standing in large parts of town.”
Yet Sullivan said locals weren’t panicking, given Grafton’s history. The latest predicted crest of 11 feet above flood stage would match that of the 2008 flood, when 20 homes and businesses were flooded, but floods have been worse, including in 1993 during the most severe flooding ever along much of the Mississippi.
“I think we’re a little bit weary,” Sullivan said. “But the people of Grafton are really resilient, and they’re used to dealing with this. They make a living off the river, and they understand they have to take the bad with the good.”
In northern Missouri, however, the river was going down. Clarksville, Mo., stayed mostly dry thanks to a sandbag-and-tarp levee built in April that was reinforced by volunteers in recent days. Several businesses and a few homes took on water in Louisiana, Mo., but the Champ Clark Bridge, which spans the river and connects to Illinois, reopened as water on the Illinois approach receded. Its closure forced commuters to drive an extra 35 miles to the next closest river crossing.
No significant problems were expected in St. Louis, but the normally busy road that runs between the river and the Gateway Arch was closed Monday.
Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said two Mississippi River levees have been overtopped during this round of flooding, both near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Petersen said about 20 residents were impacted.
The Missouri River was starting to drop in hard-hit Missouri towns including Jefferson City, Hermann and Washington.
Nathan Nickolaus, city administrator in Jefferson City, said a few homes and businesses were damaged but levees held, even as water lapped near the tops. One of those levees protected the Jefferson City airport, which remained open, though several plane owners moved their aircraft out.
Nickolaus credited buyouts of homeowners over the past several years that have essentially cleared out the flood plain in Missouri’s Capitol city.
“Years ago this would have been a major event with a lot of homes and businesses impacted, people stranded,” Nickolaus said.