ST. LOUIS (AP) — Residents of a small Missouri town were busy Tuesday sandbagging yet another levee being threatened by a seemingly ceaseless flood.
The Pin Oak Levee protects a little over 100 homes in the low-lying area of Winfield, a Mississippi River community of 1,400 residents 45 miles northwest of St. Louis. The river reached its fourth-highest level ever Monday, and while it was starting to drop, the pressure on the levee was concerning enough that residents were urged to have bags packed just in case they needed to evacuate.
Waves of flooding that began in March have caused significant damage to farmland, homes and businesses throughout the Midwest. At least seven deaths since March have been blamed on flooding. Rivers at many communities have been above flood stage for more than six weeks.
The worst may not be over. Heavy rain over the central U.S., expected to continue through Thursday, is creating new problems.
The National Weather Service said the Missouri River is expected to rise around 4 feet by Friday at Atchison, Kansas, and St. Joseph and by 5 1/2 feet by Sunday at Boonville. The new levels will fall well short of major flood stage, so few homes or businesses will likely be impacted.
The Illinois River is expected to remain high at Peoria, Illinois, where the U.S. Coast Guard has closed it to all traffic. A sandbag wall protects downtown Peoria. Mark Fuchs of the weather service said the Illinois River could see a record high at Valley City, Illinois, by Sunday, and get to near-record levels at several other mostly rural spots in western Illinois.
The rain also will keep the Mississippi River extraordinarily high. Several levees in northeast Missouri have been overtopped or breached as the Mississippi reached near-historic levels over the past week.
Lincoln County Emergency Director Jim Sharp said the levee at Winfield is holding for now, but many others near it didn't.
"We have had levees that have overtopped so we do have water in some homes," Sharp said. "It's just that there's more river than there is levee."
The weather service issued flood watches Tuesday for parts of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Communities along the Mississippi River remained under flood warnings. The river remained closed at St. Louis due to high water, and several locks and dams between Clarksville, Missouri, and Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, were closed.
The good news is that the forecast calls for mostly dry weather for several days starting this weekend.